Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2006: Tomas Munita „Kabul - Leaving the Shadows“

Winner 2006: Tomas Munita

Chilean photographer Tomas Munita has won the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2006 with his photo report ‘Kabul — Leaving the Shadows’. The title ‘Leaving the Shadows‘ is fitting for two reasons: it alludes to both the form — the concentration on twilight moods and the content — a description of the living situation of the Afghan population.

The photographs of the reporter, who was born in Santiago de Chile in 1975, show peaceful and joyful moments of a gradually emerging normality rather than the violence and poverty one might expect. In comparison, the ruins, war damage or remains of ammunition in some of the pictures seem to be of minor importance, although they form a strong contrast that is not only visual. In failing daylight or the semi-darkness of the interiors, light and shade fight for predominance and give the colors in the photos a special intensity. Both contrasts of the interplay of light and shade – metaphorical and actual – make the photos a particularly accurate description of the relationship of man and his environment, which is the subject of the competition held by the Leica Camera Group as part of its culture program. 

The report is a result of Munita’s long-term work as a press photographer for The Associated Press news agency in Afghanistan. “The photos taken between March and November 2005 show that the medium of photography has a power that transcends the mere act of communicating news: With his essay, the observer Munita analyzes the situation of Afghanistan and condenses it in visual form. The special achievement of the award winner is that he has managed to develop a personal aesthetic out of a journalistic assignment. At the same time, the series demonstrates the quality of photojournalism that can be attained when news agencies give their photographers enough scope, for instance through the length of the assignment“ says Corporate Communications Manager Gero Furchheim, who is responsible for Leica Camera AG’s culture projects.

An honorable mention in the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2006 went to the American James Whitlow Delano. In his personal long-term project “Japan Mangaland“, the photographer takes a critical look at the country he lives in.

Tomas Munita

Tomas Munita studied photography from 1994 to 1997. From 1998 to 2000 he worked for the daily newspaper El Metropolitano in Santiago and then until 2003 for The Associated Press with a focus on Latin America. Until his Kabul assignment, he realized projects of his own, such as a 12-month reportage trip to Southern Asia. In 2003 he took part in the Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo in Amsterdam. In 2005 he received the ICP Young Photographer Infinity Award conferred by the International Center of Photography in New York. Since February 2006, Munita has worked in his home city of Santiago de Chile as a freelance photographer.