Winning photographs of the inaugural Leica Women Foto Project Award
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Winning photographs of the inaugural Leica Women Foto Project Award

Editor's note: Do note that some images in this slideshow will be considered not safe for work (NSFW), as a few images depict nudity. Proceed at your own discretion if in a sensitive work environment.

Earlier this year, Leica Camera launched the Leica Women Foto Project to facilitate diversity and inclusion in photography. This past week, they announced the three winners of the inaugural Leica Women Foto Project Award. Selected from a pool of 600 submissions across the U.S., photographers Debi Cornwall, Yana Paskova, and Eva Woolridge were chosen by a panel of five industry-leading judges. Each winner received $10,000 and a Leica Q2 camera to pursue a personal project that tells a story through the female viewpoint.

‘The Leica Women Foto Project is a keystone program for Leica Camera USA as we expand opportunities to amplify visual stories told through the lenses of underrepresented perspectives. The overwhelming response of hundreds of USA-based submissions in just our first year alone is indicative of the ongoing need for platforms that invite conversations that provoke new ways of seeing,’ says Kiran Karnani, Director of Marketing for Leica Camera North America. ‘We welcome Debi, Yana, and Eva to the Leica family of storytellers and we look forward to the continued evolution of their impactful stories.’

Debi Cornwall

Debi Cornwall was chosen for her series Necessary Fictions which explores the role of American military intervention in a mysterious country called 'Atropia.' Cornwall travelled to ten military training centers across the U.S., constructed to resemble Iraqi and Afghan villages, to stage the photos in her series. By documenting these mock villages, battle scenarios, and ‘cultural role-players,’ used to train military personnel, Cornwall’s aim was to invite critical inquiry among viewers about a society in which war has become the rule rather than the exception.

Yana Paskova

Bulgaria-born, Chicago-bred and Brooklyn-based photojournalist and writer Yana Paskova created her winning series, Where Women Rule, based on her experience as a political asylum immigrant. Her aim with this project was to bridge humans’ understanding of each other. She describes the series as ‘a visual and sociological look at what happens when cultural norms of gender are amended or removed — via the all-female societies across the world, where women gather for shelter or in matriarchy — leaving us with new notions of femininity and masculinity, human bonds, family, and the fluid boundaries of identity.’

Eva Woolridge

Eva Woolridge, a self-proclaimed African-American and Chinese-American queer woman, brought her personal struggles with fertility to life in her project The Size of a Grapefruit. The series is an artistic representation of the traumatic experiences that ensued following her diagnosis of a dermoid cyst, which was the size of a grapefruit, and the resulting removal of her right ovary. Woolridge feels the removal could have been prevented had medical professionals been more proactive during early consultations. She hopes to shed more light on racial bias against black women seeking medical treatment, worldwide, by continuing the series with her prize money.

All three women will showcase photographs from their respective winning series in a joint exhibit at Leica Gallery Boston starting March 5th through April 26th, 2020. Visitors will be able to view the journey of their personal projects.