Here are the winners of this year’s Leica Women Foto Project Awards

Ethan Petticrew, Unangax. “We have a huge suicide epidemic up here with young people; I mean it happens all the time. It's an epidemic in our villages; we have one, and then five more will follow suit. … I'm sick of it; it's a product of a colonization. I remember being suicidal over it in my teenage years. At one point I tried pills because I thought, 'Who am I? I don't fit in anybody's world. There's too much White in me, and in the White world I have too much Native in me.' We get lost sometimes, but the ones that love us the most are our own. I can't stand to see any more of our young people die this way; so I've committed myself to working with teenagers and young people in the dance group, that's my contribution to keeping our kids safe. I know it won't provide every single one of them with the tools they need, but it's my small contribution; to ground them in who they are. Hopefully that will help them with resilience and moving forward.” (Matika Wilbur)

This story was featured in The Optimist newsletter. Sign up here to receive stories of kindness, resilience and the best among us every Wednesday and Sunday.

I used to be a photographer working in the field. Before I made the switch from behind the camera to behind the desk, I was out there meeting people, getting close to those whose stories I was sharing, and doing all the things that make the job both invigorating and difficult.

Working as a photojournalist is difficult in many ways, from meeting deadlines to having the requisite skills to make a photograph suitable for publication. Those are just a couple of examples of the normal challenges facing photojournalists. But, as I’ve written before, the business has long been dominated by White males. Because of that, it is exponentially more difficult for those who are not male and not White to get a foot in the door, let alone thrive.

There have been multiple efforts to support those who have traditionally been given short shrift in the industry. We have written about some of those efforts, including highlighting the winners of the Women Photograph grants. But, like with anything seeking to change the status quo, there is much work to do. The Leica Women Foto Project Awards is another welcome effort.

In its first year, the Leica Women Foto Project Awards showcased the work of Yana Paskova, Eva Woolridge and Debi Cornwall. Paskova is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, and we have highlighted Cornwall’s extraordinary work here on In Sight. This year, in its second year, the awards highlight the work of Karen Zusman, Anna Boyiazis and Matika Wilbur.

Wilbur, who hails from the Pacific Northwest, was recognized for her work, “Project 562,” which is described as a “stunning visual narrative of Tribal sovereignties in the U.S.” For the project, Wilbur visited over 400 tribal nations spread across all 50 states. The work began “after a dream with her grandmother, who asked her to photograph their own peoples.” “Project 562” is being completed as a 500-page book and seeks to change our perception of Native Americans.

Zusman, who calls New York City home, was recognized for a body of work produced during the pandemic. Without being able to travel, Zusman embarked on a portrait series called “The Super Power of Me,” which “documents the strength and spirit of children of color in New York City.” She plans on expanding the project (with the help of the Leica Women Foto Project Award) to an outdoor exhibit and workshops focused on fostering “creativity and self-esteem building for children to express, protect and expand their vision of who they are.”

Last, but certainly not least, Boyiazis, a documentary photographer based in Southern California and East Africa, was recognized for her project “Finding Freedom in the Water.” This work documents women and girls learning to swim in Zanzibar, which Boyiazis describes as “an act of emancipation in an ultraconservative region where such an act conflicts with patriarchal, religious norms.” She is planning on returning to Zanzibar later this year, with the support of the Leica Women Foto Project Award, to continue the project.

Kiran Karnani, director of marketing for Leica Camera North America, said, “The second annual Leica Women Foto Project Award underscores our ongoing commitment to diversity in visual storytelling. … With the award and the overarching initiative, we aim to empower, inspire and amplify underrepresented voices in photography.”

Wilbur, Zusman and Boyiazis were each awarded $10,000 and received a Leica Q2. They were chosen by a distinguished group of influential women in photography, art and journalism. The group included Karin Rehn-Kaufman, art director and chief representative, Leica Galleries International; Amanda de Cadenet, entrepreneur, journalist, author, photographer, activist and founder of Girlgaze & The Conversation​; Laura Roumanos, executive producer and co-founder, United Photo Industries and Photoville; Sheila Pree Bright, fine-art photographer and visual cultural producer; Elizabeth Avedon, independent curator, photo consultant, designer and writer; Elizabeth Krist, National Geographic photo editor and founding member of the Visual Thinking Collective; Lynn Johnson, photographer and National Geographic contributor; Maggie Steber, VII Agency photographer and Guggenheim fellow; and Sandra Stevenson, assistant editor in the photography department at New York Times.

We’re presenting just a few of the award-winning images here on In Sight today.

You can find out more about the awards and the awardees here.


Correction: A previous version of this article had a caption that misidentified the people in it as Gary McAdams and his daughter, Cassandra McAdams. After reaching out to the Leica Women Foto Project Awards for clarification, the caption has been updated to identify the people as Richard Ray Whitman and his daughter, Bineshi Albert.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

More on In Sight:

A photographer uses disinfectants to ‘reveal’ the unseen virus

A photographer and a prisoner ruminate on life’s limitations in ‘The Parameters of Our Cage’

This photographer’s new book is a rumination on friendship, memory and mortality