Moroccan photographer M’hammed Kilito shortlisted for prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack award

DUBAI: Documentary photographer M’hammed Kilito has been shortlisted for the 42nd edition of the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Prize.

Born in Lviv, Ukraine, Kilito grew up in Rabat, Morocco, where he is now based. In his work he seeks to explore narratives relevant to understanding cultural identity, climate change and the sociology of the workforce.

The 41-year-old photographer has been shortlisted for ‘Before It’s Gone’, an ongoing multidisciplinary art project that shines a light on the degradation of oases in Morocco.

‘Before It’s Gone’ by M’hammed Kilito/VII Agency. (Contemporary Gowen)

“It’s one of the most prestigious awards one can receive as a photographer,” Kilito told Arab News. “Just being a finalist is a real honor and a great privilege. Presenting the project in an exhibition and in the Leica catalog will allow it to reach a wider audience and raise awareness of the reality of oases and their inhabitants in the face of the effects of climate change,” he added.

Due to the impact of climate change and rising temperatures, the frequency of droughts has increased in Morocco, negatively impacting the country’s oases which are located in arid and semi-arid regions and considered an ecological defense against desertification as well as a crucial refuge for biodiversity. .

“I realized that desertification, recurrent droughts and fires, changes in agricultural practices, overexploitation of natural resources, rural exodus and the sharp drop in the water table are all imminent threats to the existence of oases,” he said in his artist statement for the award. He decided to work on the project, he says, to “bring to light these multiple concerns rarely covered by the media and largely unrecognized by the general public”.

‘Before It’s Gone’ by M’hammed Kilito/VII Agency. (Contemporary Gowen)

Through his powerful, haunting and evocative photographs, Kilito hopes to draw attention to the disappearance of oases due to climate change, to alert public opinion, political decision-makers and the organizations concerned. In addition, he hopes to raise awareness of the need to protect the ancestral intangible heritage of nomadic culture in Morocco that exists in these oases.

Kilito will present images from the project at an upcoming exhibition at Gowen Contemporary in Geneva, Switzerland, and also hopes to produce a book from the series.

“At the same time, I seek to comparatively explore the conditions of other countries that have oases,” he told Arab News. “The first opportunities I have are currently concentrated in the Gulf countries. In the coming months, I will travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to better understand the specificity and organization of the different oasis spaces and local communities. My research also aims to better understand the different approaches, good practices and programs applied to the enhancement, conservation and sustainable development of oases.

The prize is named after Oskar Barnack (1879-1936), the designer of the first Leica camera.

‘Before It’s Gone’ by M’hammed Kilito/VII Agency. (Contemporary Gowen)

Among the 12 shortlisted photographers are American Lynsey Addario, Indonesian Irene Barlian, Italian Alessandro Cinque, German DOCKS Collective, German Valentin Goppel, Canadian Kiana Hayeri, German Nanna Heitmann, Belgian Léonard Pongo, Mexican Victoria Razo, Colombian Felipe Romero Beltrán and Brazilian Rafael Vilela. .

About 60 photography experts from 34 countries, including curators, gallerists, art directors, image editors and photographers, submitted their entries for the main LOBA 2022 category.

These were then judged by a jury of five people, including Alessia Glaviano, head of Global PhotoVogue and director of the Photo Vogue Festival in Italy; Natalia Jimenez-Stuard, Washington Post photo editor; Swiss photographer Dominic Nahr and winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2009; Azu Nwagbogu, Founder and Director of the African Artists’ Foundation and the LagosPhoto Festival in Nigeria and Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Artistic Director and Chief Representative of Leica Galleries International.

The LOBA winner receives $40,000 and Leica camera equipment worth $10,000. The winning and shortlisted photographs will be part of a major traveling exhibition, which will open in Wetzlar, Germany in October 2022.