A young photographer from Belgium has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Zeiss Photography Award for a month-long project on the inhabitants of a remote collection of islands off the north coast of Scotland. Kevin Faingnaert’s Føroyar series wins him a €3,000 cash prize as well as €12,000 worth of Zeiss lenses in the contest that was themed ‘Seeing Beyond – Meaningful Places’.

Faingbaert spent a month photographing and living among the dwindling population of the Faroe Islands – a group of islands that sit between Norway and Iceland along the border of the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic. His series includes pictures of the people, the landscape as well as some of the buildings of the islands, but mainly focuses on the population loss of the area, as youngsters move away to find work, and the harshness of the conditions.

Zeiss says it received over 30,000 images from 4677 photographers representing 130 countries for this year’s competition. As well as the winning series the judges selected the work of nine other photographers for a shortlist.

  • Anna Filipova, UK
  • Mario Adario, Italy
  • Christopher Roche, UK
  • Sonja Hamad, Germany
  • Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Ghana
  • Frederik Buyckx, Belgium
  • Nicholas White, UK
  • Fabian Muir, Australia
  • Nicky Newman, South Africa

The prizes will be presented to Faingbaert during a ceremony at the Sony World Photography Awards in London next month. For more information, and to see the full project along with the shortlisted images, visit the Zeiss Photography Award 2017 web pages.

Press Release

Announcing the Winner of the ZEISS Photography Award 2017

Kevin Faingnaert from Belgium documented life on the Faroe Islands, offering a portrait of a culture which may not exist for much longer.

The winner of the ZEISS Photography Award has been chosen: Kevin Faingnaert from Belgium impressed the international Jury with his photo series Føroyar in which he offers a portrait of life on the Faroe Islands located between Scotland and Iceland. "There is a wonderful completeness to Kevin's series," says Claire Richardson, Picture Editor at the Lonely Planet. "Epic landscapes mix with tenderly composed portraits, tied together by a soft muted palette, which immediately draws you in. Everyday events in these remote communities are captured by the lens, from a parishioner sitting quietly in a local church to a village football game. But look closely at this unforgiving and wild environment and you realize that these are ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances, hanging on at the edge of the world."

"Hundreds of people used to live here, now there are just five or ten people left"

Kevin Faingnaert lived amongst the local inhabitants on the Faroe Islands for a month, couchsurfing and hitchhiking. "The Faroese were very warm and welcoming," he says. To show his appreciation, he made breakfast for his hosts, shoveled snow and went out to sea with the fishermen. On his trips across the islands he passed by small villages. "A few decades ago they were inhabited by hundreds of people, but now there are often just five or ten people left because the young people have moved to the cities in search of better opportunities. They don’t see any future in the places they were born in."

The thirty-year-old is delighted by his win: "I'm incredibly honored by winning the award and that my photos get recognized in between the endless amount of other wonderful stories being told. Most importantly it gives me strength and motivation to continue my work and to take up new ideas which have been in my mind since forever." As his prize, Faingnaert will receive camera lenses from ZEISS worth a total of 12,000 euros as well as 3,000 euros for a photo trip. The awards ceremony will take place in London on 20 April 2017.

30,000 submissions from 130 different countries

"Meaningful Places" was the theme of the ZEISS Photography Award 2017 which ZEISS conducted in collaboration with the World Photography Organisation (WPO). 4,677 photographers from more than 130 different countries submitted more than 30,000 photos. Experts from the world of photography served on the jury: in addition to Claire Richardson, Sarah Toplis from the online art dealer The Space and the photographer Jürgen Schadeberg Dr. (h.c.) judged all the entries. The following photographers made the short list:

Anna Filipova, UK

Mario Adario, Italy

Christopher Roche, UK

Sonja Hamad, Germany

Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Ghana

Frederik Buyckx, Belgium

Nicholas White, UK

Fabian Muir, Australia

Nicky Newman, South Africa

Faingnaert's winning photo series as well as a selection of other images from the competition will be on display at the Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr - 2017 Exhibition at the landmark Somerset House, London from 21 April to 7 May 2017.