Oskar Barnack (1879–1936), the inventor of the Leica

From 1914, Oskar Barnack (1879–1936), the inventor of the Leica, used the prototype camera he developed, today known as the Ur-Leica, for photography.

The LOBA award (Leica Oskar Barnack Award) named after this photographic pioneer was first awarded in 1979, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Oskar Barnack’s birth.

He captured various events in entire series of photographs and became one of the earliest photographers to document the relationships between man and the environment. For instance, his photography of the floods in Wetzlar in 1920 is now considered to be the first reportage series shot with a 35 mm still film camera.

In May 2021, the five person jury will meet at Leica Camera AG headquarters in Wetzlar. They will choose the 2021 LOBA winner of the main award from a shortlist of up to twelve series, and the Newcomer Award winner from a shortlist of six. In summer, the series produced by the shortlisted candidates will be presented on the LOBA website. The announcement and award ceremony celebrating the winners in both categories will take place in November.

Image © Leica

Oskar Barnack and the historical flood in Wetzlar (1920), taken with the prototype Leica. 

In 2020, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) celebrated its 40 year anniversary. It was the first time that competition participants were selected through a nomination process; and, once again, this year a group of experienced international photography experts will be the ones to choose the participants for LOBA 2021. The number of nominators has been increased to over 100, from 43 countries. They include renowned curators, gallery managers, art directors and numerous photographers from six continents.

Based upon personal expertise and experience, each member from this team of nominators may choose up to three photo series. The only requirements for a nomination are that the photographic work be of a documentary or conceptual-artistic nature, and that it deal with the relationship between people and their environment. This humanistic constant has defined the LOBA competition, since its inception in 1979. In addition to the candidates for the main award, each nominator may name one additional photographer, under 30 years of age, for the LOBA Newcomer Award.

The prize money, which was increased significantly in 2020, will remain the same in 2021: the winner of the LOBA will receive 40,000 euros and Leica camera equipment valued at 10,000 euros; the Newcomer Award winner will receive 10,000 euros and a Leica Q2. The winning series, which will first be presented in Wetzlar on the occasion of the award ceremony in November, will also become part of a touring exhibition that will be showcased in Leica Galleries and select Photo Festivals around the world. An accompanying catalogue of the winners and all of the shortlisted candidates will be available.


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