In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Leica announced the three winners of the annual Leica Women Foto Project Award. Like every year, this contest is a part of Leica’s initiative to expand diverse representation in the photography industry, to include all perspectives, and to empower women. And just like in previous contests, the winning images are thought-provoking and powerful in 2022, too.
This year’s winners are Rania Matar, Rosem Morton, and September Bottoms from the US with their photo essays on different topics.
Rania Matar is an acclaimed Lebanese photographer and 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. For the photo series that brought her the Leica Women Photo Project award, she traveled to her home country to produce her stunning project Where Do I Go?. It was inspired by the young generation of Lebanese women whose resilience and hope shine through the complexities of living in a country ill-prepared for COVID-19 and ravaged by corruption and an ongoing financial crisis.
As part of her larger initiative and best-selling photography book, SHE, Rania’s winning project explores issues of personal and collective identity through female adolescence and womanhood. A gripping and beautifully-shot examination of subjectivity and the female gaze, the photographer portrays the raw beauty of her subjects: their age, individuality, physicality, and mystery, photographing them the way she, a woman and a mother, sees them, beautiful and alive.
Rosem Morton, following a decade-long career as a nurse, became inspired by the intimacy of everyday life amidst gender, health, and racial adversity, so she picked up a camera. Now, she is a documentary photographer, multiple-time National Geographic Photo Grantee, and now, a Leica Women Foto Project Award winner. Her winning project, Wildflower, is shatteringly intimate and urgently important: it’s an interrogation of the effects of rape and the devastating aftermath it has on victims.
What’s more, Rosem’s photos document her own experience with victim shaming and blame a month after her own sexual assault. Exploring life after trauma through paired images and journal entries, the resulting project bears witness to the crippling effects of rape and cycles of violence against women, as well as the photographer’s own story of hope and endurance.
September Bottoms was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a self-taught photographer and New York Times Photography Fellow who focuses her work on women’s issues, family, and poverty as well as the intersection of the three. Her winning project, Remember September, is an amalgamation of these themes; a visual memoir of the artist’s own family, shot through the lens of sexual trauma and poverty.
Occupying a unique space between aesthetic beauty and grotesque subjectivity, Bottoms’ work explores the effects of intergenerational trauma through femininity. Daring to trace these emotional and physical wounds to their original sources while interrogating her own identity as a member of a family plagued by abuse and mental illness, Bottoms seeks to break cycles of violence against women through her own story of resilience and hope.
“The third annual Leica Women Foto Project Award underscores our ongoing commitment to diversity in visual storytelling,” says Kiran Karnani, VP of Marketing for Leica Camera North America.
“Our winners this year demonstrated extraordinary skill, grace, and bravery, creating works that are as daring as they are vital. With this year’s Award and the overarching initiative, we aim to illuminate visual storytellers through programs and resources that foster the development and amplification of the female perspective.”
Each winner will be awarded $10,000, a Leica SL2-S camera with Leica Vario-Elmarit 24-70 ASPH lens, and a 4-week photography exhibition at Fotografiska New York. From 8, the exhibition also features the work of this year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Award winner, Ana María Arévalo.