The Felix Schoeller Photo Award has named Nigerian photographer Emeke Obanor as the winner of the German Peace Prize for Photography. Obanor will walk away with the top prize of 10,000 euros for his portfolio entry titled Heroes.
The bi-annual Photo Award has been put together by the Felix Schoeller Group in partnership with the City of Peace Osnabrück. Founded in 1895 and headquartered in Osnabrück, Germany, the Felix Schoeller Group is a speciality paper manufacturer.
The German Peace Prize for Photography is a category of the overarching competition, The Felix Schoeller Photo Award, and the category is only open to entrants who are professional photographers.
The 2021 finalists, whose work will be on display at the Museumquartier in Osnabrück for the next five months, were selected from a pool of nearly 400 entries sent in from 95 countries around the world.
On the competition’s website, the organisers explain the conceptual underpinnings of the Peace Prize category.
The statement reads: The “German Peace Prize for Photography” honors works that conceptually interpret the topic of “Peace” by means of the medium of photography. Here, the term peace may be very broadly interpreted. For example, it may express peace between peoples, peaceful coexistence in a country or a family, or the inner peace of individuals.
At the virtual awards ceremony that took place over the weekend, Hans-Christoph Gallenkamp, CEO of the Felix Schoeller Group, spoke to the purpose of the annual competition, “The German Peace Award for Photography has once again made clear how important the pursuit of peace is and how photography as a medium can also make its contribution.”
The winning portfolio: Emeke Obanor
Obanaor is a contemporary art and documentary photographer, and his photo series depicts the stories of young girls who have returned to freedom after having been kidnapped by terrorist organisation Boko Haram.
Sharing his thoughts on Obanor’s winning entry, chairman of the judging panel Michael Danneman said, “With this outstanding work, Emeke Obanor shows us not only his hopeful heroines, but also their further path to a self-determined future in peace.”
The judging panel also released a joint comment:
With his work Heroes, the Nigerian photographer Emeke Obanor has succeeded in countering the atrocities of the Boko Haram sect with graceful and clear images. Concentrating on a few pictorial elements, he portrays young women who have the courage to go back to school in the hope of a better and free life.
“A globe, colourful pens or a book cover their faces to protect them in their anonymity and at the same time also stand as metaphors for cosmopolitanism and awakening through education. Obanor has an extraordinary flair for sensitive and profound portraits.”
“Through the aesthetic simplicity of his portraits, the legible details in the picture and the background knowledge of the suffering of these girls, a tension builds up in the viewer that makes one think. “
Life between home and hell: Refugees in Camp Moria on Lesbos by Reto Klar, Germany
I asked refugees to show me their last mobile phone photo from happy days in their home country. I then photographed this photo in the owner’s hand. As a counter-image, I took a current photo of the refugees in their current situation in the camp and photographed how they live now.
With the series I wanted to show that the refugees had a life before they fled and that they are human beings like us. I hope that with this photo series I can give them back a little dignity.
I Wanna Be Messi by Antonio Aragon Renuncio, Spain
Playing football is not a privilege, it is a right. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, playing football is a universal language for millions of people around the world, regardless of their nationality, language or religion.
In Togo, there is a centre for children with disabilities that is particularly concerned with improving their quality of life. In Africa, children with disabilities are at high risk of abuse and neglect. People believe that disabilities are due to divine punishment. These minors (known as “snakes” because they lie on the ground) are considered demons and are drowned in the river in rituals to make the snake disappear.
But for these children at the Don Orione Centre, it’s all about football. They are all Messi. Football brings peace to their souls and freedom to their minds…. It is more than a game. Every child dreams of becoming the new star of the “beautiful game”, in search of his or her next goal…
Afghanistan: The Colour Awakens by Ako Salemi, Iran
Afghanistan, with more than three decades of war behind it and well over a million dead, seems to be tentatively embarking on the difficult road to stability. A generation of middle-aged Afghans whose lives have been filled with the bitter taste of insecurity and poverty are hoping for a better future for their children and generations to come.
Afghan women, who for years were shackled under the harsh misogynistic rule of the Taliban, have also taken up their restless struggle for greater freedoms. Thus, Afghanistan remains caught between its proud, distant past, it’s much more difficult recent history and the hope for a new future. In recent decades, the country has been tortured and brutalised.
Today, the people are struggling to shake off the dust of the long years of war. Under the first layer of the grey, cold struggle, they strive to see Afghanistan again as it should be: radiant in beautiful colours.
Sunrise by Hamed Sodachi, Iran
A state of war stands in opposition to existence and non-existence. The struggle for existence makes war romantic. In war, meanings transform in the shadow of non-being, and existence transforms the meaning of nothingness.
Everything breathes differently under the ashes of death.
Motivation for war and motivation for peace. But the strength and peace-loving nature of women, children and men steer war in a different direction.
The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, and the seasons are constantly changing against the weariness of those who want violence. They pull everything towards death. But the fresh buds of jasmine are blooming again. I am here. That is why I live.
You can find out more about The Felix Schoeller Photo Award on the competition’s website here.