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Winners of the third annual Leica Women Foto Project Award

Samira is a third-generation Palestinian refugee living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut.
Samira is a third-generation Palestinian refugee living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut. (Rania Matar)

Leica Camera USA recently announced that photographers Rania Matar, Rosem Morton and September Bottoms are the recipients of the third annual Leica Women Foto Project Awards. Each of them will receive $10,000, a Leica SL2-S camera and lens, and an exhibition at Fotografiska in New York. In addition, three mentorships were granted for a professional development program run in partnership with VII Agency.

Matar was recognized for the work in her project “Where Do I Go?” that is part of a larger project she has been working on that “explores issues of personal and collective identity through female adolescence and womanhood.” This is a continuation of the work she has already published in her book “SHE.”

The photos in “Where Do I Go?” are exquisitely crafted portraits that celebrate the beauty of the people in them. And, as the news release for the awards says, “Matar portrays the raw beauty of her subjects: their age, individuality, physicality, and mystery, photographing them the way she, a woman and a mother, sees them, beautiful and alive.”

You can see more of Matar’s work on her website.

September Bottoms is a self-taught photographer born and raised in Oklahoma. Her work focuses on women’s issues, family and poverty. She was recognized for her project “Remember September,” which is a visual memoir of her own family that touches on those themes.

Bottoms’s work has an ethereal beauty that emphasizes its emotionality. “Remember September” is a heavily personal and emotional exploration of the ups and downs in her own life told “through the lens of sexual trauma and poverty.”

The news release announcing the awards does a better job of describing Bottoms’s work than I could, saying:

“Occupying a unique space between aesthetic beauty and grotesque subjectivity, Bottoms’ work explores the effects of intergenerational trauma through femininity. Daring to trace these emotional and physical wounds to their original sources while interrogating her own identity as a member of a family plagued by abuse and mental illness, Bottoms seeks to break cycles of violence against women through her own story of resilience and hope.”

You can see more of Bottoms’s work on her website.

Rosem Morton was recognized for her searingly personal project titled “Wildflower.” Before turning to photography, Morton spent a decade as a nurse. Her project is “an interrogation of the effects of rape and the devastating aftermath it has on victims.”

Morton’s black-and-white photographs are extraordinarily personal and powerful documents of her experience. Their courage and poignancy are bolstered from her own personal experience. She began the project after her own sexual assault. By documenting her own experience, Morton shares the grave costs that come with such a traumatic experience.

Here’s how the awards described her work:

“Morton’s photos document her own experience with victim shaming and blame a month after her own sexual assault. Exploring life after trauma through paired images and journal entries, the resulting project bears witness to the crippling effects of rape and cycles of violence against women, as well as the photographer’s own story of hope and endurance.”

You can see more of Morton’s work on her website.

Eleven influential women in photography, art and journalism selected the three projects above for this year’s awards. The jurors included Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, director at Leica Galleries Worldwide; Laura Roumanos, co-founder at United Photo Industries; Amanda Hajjar, founding director of exhibitions at Fotografiska New York; Natalia Jimenez, picture editor at The Washington Post; Denise Wolff, senior editor at Aperture Foundation; Maggie Steber, documentary photographer and Guggenheim grant fellow; Sandra Stevenson, associate director of photography for CNN; Elizabeth Krist, former senior photo editor at National Geographic; Lynn Johnson, photojournalist; Elizabeth Avedon, independent curator; and Eve Lyons, photo editor for the New York Times.

To find out more about the Leica Women Foto Project x VII Mentor Program, check out their website.