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Leica Announces Oskar Barnack Award 2017 Winner

Norwegian photographer Terje Abusdal was recognized for his “Slash & Burn” project in the Main category
Leica Oskar Barnack Award

Photographer Terje Abusdal is the winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2017, recognized for his “Slash & Burn” project, which documented the Forest Finns, a Norwegian ethnic minority group. Photo credit: © Terje Abusdal 2016,

Leica has announced the winner of the prestigious Oskar Barnack Award 2017. Norwegian photographer Terje Abusdal was recognized for his hauntingly beautiful “Slash & Burn” project in the Main category. Abusdal earned a 25,000 euros cash prize (that’s about $30,000), in addition to a Leica M-System camera and lens with a value of 10,000 euros (about $12,000).

The subject of Abusdal’s “Slash & Burn” project is a Norwegian ethnic minority group, the Forest Finns, whose lives are deeply intertwined with the natural world.

Leica Oskar Barnack Award
Photo credit: © Terje Abusdal 2016

The Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award went to photographer Sergey Melnitchenko of Ukraine. His portfolio project “Behind the Scenes” captures the gritty reality of dancers working in a Chinese club show. Melnitchenko earned a 10,000 euros cash prize (about $12,000) and a Leica rangefinder camera and lens. The Newcomer Award is given to rising professional photographers 25 years old and younger.

Leica Oskar Barnack Award
Photo credit: © Sergey Melnitchenko

The winners will attend a gala event in Berlin, September 13, 2017, where they will receive their prizes. This was the 37th year of the annual international photographic competition.

Learn more about the Leica Oskar Barnack Award and how to apply for next year’s competition.

See the press release below.

Terje Abusdal Wins the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2017

Sergey Melnitchenko is awarded the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2017

August 10, 2017 – The winners of Leica Camera’s 37th Annual Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) – the internationally acclaimed photography competition – have been chosen.  In the main category, Norwegian photographer Terje Abusdal won for his project titled “Slash & Burn.” Sergey Melnitchenko, from the Ukraine, earned the Newcomer Award, reserved for up-and-coming professional photographers age 25 or younger.  By winning this prestigious competition, both Abusdal and Melnitchenko gain significant resources to continue their outstanding work.

“I would like to congratulate Terje Abusdal and Sergey Melnitchenko, the winners of this year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Awards, on behalf of the whole jury,” expressed Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Art Director & Chief Representative Leica Galleries International. “Both photographers have shown that they have a truly special eye for seeing and portraying the interaction of people and their environments. They have surpassed a total of 2,700 competitors from 104 countries and have won over all members of the jury with their impressive portfolios.”

The winners will receive their prizes at a gala event in Berlin on September 13, 2017.  Terje Abusdal, will be honored with a cash prize of 25,000 euros (approximately $30,000 USD) and Leica M-System equipment (camera and lens) valued at an additional 10,000 euros (approximately $12,000 USD). Sergey Melnitchenko will be honored with a cash prize of 10,000 euros (approximately $12,000 USD) and will also be presented with a Leica rangefinder camera and lens.


Terje Abusdal’s mysterious and expressive photography in “Slash & Burn” captures the story of the Forest Finns, a Norwegian ethnic minority group that leads a life in close touch with nature.  His work began as a mere thesis project at the Danish School of Journalism and evolved into the award-winning portfolio we see today. During his three-years of research, Abusdal delved deeper and deeper into the lifestyle of the Forest Finns: one that balances tradition and mysticism, ethnic origins and clan culture, facts and fiction.

How can immaterial aspects such as culture be captured in pictures when the traditions are almost extinct? Taking this question as a starting point, Abusdal blurred the transitions between reality and fiction to an ever-increasing degree. “I added certain historical elements of the Forest Finns to the story – such as fire, smoke, shamanism,” explains Abusdal.  “Each of these elements are more than just their physical existence; they explain who the Forest Finns are as a people.” As a result, documentation and imagination are interwoven in his pictures in an intriguing and simultaneously organic way. His photographs radiate a suggestive power and unique spiritualism – the consequences of a deliberate attempt to create a fictional universe, a magical world.

Sergey Melnitchenko, the winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award, won over the jury with his portfolio titled “Behind the Scenes,” an extremely realistic and, in literal terms, unwashed portrayal of his subjects. The Ukrainian photographer’s in-your-face proximity to dancers in a Chinese club show that everything in his work is hard reality. “It’s about real life: our lives together as well as my life and experience,” says Melnitchenko.

In his award-winning submission, judges saw the day dawning after a hot and humid night somewhere in China – sweating transvestites, girls in bathtubs filled with beer, drunken artists, and even more drunken guests. The cinematic imagery of Melnitchenko’s portfolio has nothing to do with life in the spotlight; it tells stories of everyday life behind the scenes, with all the rough edges of show business. His portfolio, “Behind the Scenes,” reveals much more than many would like to see: bruised and battered legs, scratches and scars, feet raw from dancing, and laddered stockings in the light of make-up mirrors. To deliver such insights, Melnitchenko, had to be a part of it all.


In addition to the two main categories, the work of the other ten finalists in this year’s competition will be honored with prizes of 2,500 euros (approximately $3,000 USD). The works of all twelve finalists will then be on view again from September 14 to October 15, 2017 in Berlin at the Neuen Schule für Fotografie (Brunnenstrasse 188-190, 10119 Berlin). The LOBA Catalogue 2017, which features the winners and finalists’ work in detail with comprehensive portfolios and interviews, will be published to accompany the exhibition.


Terje Abusdal

The photographer, born in Evje, Norway in 1978, works exclusively on freelance projects – always precariously balanced on the knife-edge between truth and fiction. In 2014, he studied advanced visual storytelling at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus and later attended various master classes led by Simon Norfolk and Aaron Schuman. 2015 saw the publication of Radius 500 Metres, his first book of photographs. In his works, which can be seen in individual and collective exhibitions, he sets a particular focus on questions of identity and belonging. Terje Abusdal lives in Oslo.

Sergey Melnitchenko

The photographer was born in Mykolaiv/Ukraine in 1991 and has been taking pictures for around eight years. He is a member of the Ukrainian Photographic Alternative, a collective dedicated to the promotion of contemporary Ukrainian photography. He privately published his series with the title “Loneliness Online” in 2013. His work has been shown in a wide range of individual and collective international exhibitions, amongst them, the Landskrona Fotofestival (2015), the OFF_festival Bratislava (2014), and in an art-book presentation in the course of his period as artist-in-residence for the Muzychi Expanded History Project, Kiev/Ukraine. Melnitchenko has been living and working in China for the past two years.

About the Leica Oskar Barnack Award

The Leica Oskar Barnack Award is one of the longest-running and most prestigious international photographic competitions in the world.  It has been held this year for the 37th time. The challenge to photographers entering the competition is to perceive and document the interaction between people and their environment in creative and groundbreaking style.

About Leica Camera

Passion for creating perfect pictures. Leica represents a union of craftsmanship, design and experience. It is a beautiful collision of art and engineering, and the future of form and functionality. Leica Camera is an internationally operating, premium-segment manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products. The legendary status of the Leica brand is founded on a long tradition of excellence in the supreme quality and performance of cameras and lenses, and the iconic images that artists and photojournalists everywhere captured with them. For more information about Leica visit or follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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