KyeongJun Yang from South Korea is the winner of the ZEISS Photography Award 2020. The competition was launched for the fifth time together with the World Photography Organisation, this year with the theme Seeing Beyond – Discoveries. With his photo series Metamorphosis, Yang casts a spotlight on the experiences of immigrants in the United States. Nine other photographers were recognized and shortlisted for the ZEISS Photography Award.
For this year’s competition, photographers were asked to submit a series of works focused on the theme “Seeing Beyond – Discoveries.” The participants were free to interpret the assignment in a variety of ways, but were expected to photograph discoveries that affect our daily lives – from very personal experiences to scientific or technological breakthroughs that result in sweeping social changes.
On the Feeling of Loneliness in a New Country
For Metamorphosis, Yang shot a series of black and white portraits and still lifes, all of which center around Julie Chen. The young woman moved from China to the United States after her parents separated when she was twelve, and has lived there ever since. Each photo in the series is paired with a quote or passage from Julie Chen describing her experiences as an immigrant, her sense of loneliness and divided identity. To Yang, who is currently studying journalism in his senior year at the The University of Texas at Austin, Chen’s experiences reflect his own feelings of isolation and foreignness – a feeling that that both of them share with many others in similar situations.
A Level of Conceptual Depth That Leaves the Meaning Open to Interpretation
“Winning this award still feels like a dream,” said KyeongJun Yang, continuing, “and I am glad not only because I’ve won, but also because now I know I’m not the only person who likes my images. I’m happy my photographs have been enjoyed by others, somehow they don’t seem as lonely anymore.”
As the winner of the ZEISS Photography Award 2020, Yang will receive €12,000 worth of ZEISS lenses as well as €3,000 to cover the cost of his next photography project.
Speaking about this year’s submissions and the winning series, the photojournalist Max Ferguson, who was one of the judges, said: The subtle, personal images of Julie Chen give us a glimpse into the life of a young Chinese-American woman. The images’ closeness and quietness allows us to see and think more about what’s going on here. To me, this work stood out from the other submissions we judged as it was clear that although these were documentary photographs, there was a conceptual depth to them which raised more questions than answers and left their true meaning open to interpretation.”
The ZEISS Photography Award 2020 Shortlist
Nine other photographers were shortlisted this year. These included:
Hidden Motherhood by Alena Zhandarova (Russian Federation)
A contemporary interpretation of hidden mother photography. In this genre of photography common in the Victorian era, small children posing for the camera were kept quiet by their mothers who were hidden from view. By recreating this practice in her photos, Zhandarova comments on the social standing of mothers, who often feel invisible or secondary to their children.
Sakhawood by Alexey Vasilyev (Russian Federation)
In his work, Vasilyev documents the popular film industry in the remote Yakutia region of Russia. Seven to ten feature films are produced in the region each year, ranging from romantic comedies to fairy tales, and are often based on local legends. Although amateur in nature, these films have gained increasing acclaim at international film festivals, with some even challenging Hollywood blockbusters at local movie theaters’ box offices.
Parallel Universe by Jorritt T. Hoen (Netherlands)
Inspired by the great explorers and expeditions of the past, Jorritt T. Hoen’s work features images of exotic aquariums and terrariums – miniature habitats from faraway corners of the world that the owners have created in their own living rooms.
The Flying Cholitas by Luisa Dörr (Brazil)
In her photo series, photographer Luisa Dörr portrays the Fighting Cholitas, a performing wrestling group of indigenous women dressed in traditional Bolivian dress. Once considered to be among the country’s most marginalized communities, following civil rights campaigns in the 1960s they have become a symbol of female empowerment to many people today.
±100 by Magdalena Stengel (Germany)
In her entertaining portraits, the photographer examines the phenomenon of the ever-increasing human lifespan, selecting men and women between 90 and 100 years of age as her subjects.
Like a Father, Like a Mountain by Pan Wang 攀 王 (People’s Republic of China)
This series tells of the story of photographer Pan Wang’s journey to the large Qinling mountain range. While there, moments from the photographer’s childhood and memories of his long deceased father come back to life and are captured in his photos.
Wahala by Robin Hinsch (Germany)
Through his images, photographer Robin Hinsch draws attention to the environmental crisis as well as the devastating effects of ongoing oil spillage and natural gas flaring along the Niger Delta.
Tajo by Stefano Sbrulli (Italy)
Photographer Stefano Sbrulli also looks at the environmental destruction caused by humans. His images cast the spotlight on the mining activities carried out near the El Tojo crater in Peru, which has disenfranchised the local community and caused massive environmental damage.
Between Two Shores by Tadas Kazakevicius (Lithuania)
This series of photos presents landscapes and portraits of local residents on the Curonian Spit, a sand dune that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea and is rich in history and local mythology.
The ZEISS Photography Award 2020 Jury
This year’s ZEISS Photography Award jury included: Louise Fedotov-Clements, director of the FORMAT International Photography Festival and artistic director of QUAD; Max Ferguson, freelance photo editor; and Simon Lovermann, founder and artistic director of the photo collective „Der Greif“.
ZEISS Photography Award is held by ZEISS and World Photography Organisation. More information to find at www.zeiss.com/photographyaward. Due to the current situation, the award ceremony which is part of the Sony World Photography Awards and the exhibition starting in April 2020 in London have been postponed.