Featured Artist : Valentin Goppel

Like waiting for the proverbial London red buses, sometimes they come in twos at once, and here is my second Featured Artists post in a week! Whilst still fresh from my visit to the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in Wetzlar last week, I thought I’d write about Valentin Goppel’s (b.2000) winning series “Between The Years”. Valentin was awarded the LOBA2022 Newcomer Award of a Leica Q2 and 10,000 Euros and I’m so glad to have met with him and listen to his answers at the press conference.

“Between The Years” is a photo project that started out of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when many nations and cities, including Germany declared lock-downs on its population. Valentin photographed the daily lives of his friends and explores how the pandemic affected them, and himself, and how their future had been effectively put on hold, the affects of uncertainty from normal activities to one of boredom and routine.

“If I can’t do justice to an objective truth, then maybe a subjective truth. So, in the end, I tried to capture by own perceptions of recent years, with all the means that I have in front of the camera.”

SL : I read that you used a Pentax 645D camera for your series. How much did the format of the camera influence the way you photographed?

VG : The Pentax is a very slow and bulky camera, it affected my approach by its sheer impossibility to do proper snapshots. So it slowed me down, making me be even more concentrated on finding the right way to break down the scene.

SL : How much harder (or easier) was it to photograph your friends and family, as opposed to strangers in the way you did, as an observer and a participant.

VG : Knowing that I can only picture my own reality, taking pictures of my friends was a lot easier than photographing strangers. It was especially helpful- because picturing my friends showed me I was not alone with the hardships of the pandemic. The only difficult thing about photographing the known surroundings is to still see them as special.

Over the last 2 years, I have seen many photo projects on the effects of the pandemic – the isolation images, vacant urban scapes, lonely figures shot through windows. or experimental self-portraits. “Between The Years” is a young photographer’s attempt to ‘square his circle’ and come to terms with the rising pessimism for the future especially in the youth of today. By being a participatory concerned observer in his series his images become subjective and at times, some of his pictures were staged or reenacted. I find this approach interesting – many photographers often stage still life or fashion portraits – but this series poses an important question about what is essentially and artistic environmental portrait project as opposed to photo documentary work. Valentine acknowledges that :

“I have doubts about the possibility of photography being objective. Knowing that my perception is very subjective, and that claiming to photograph a work that universally captures the experiences of an entire generation is something I can’t possibly live up to, I eventually distanced myself from this claim. The project quickly became more subjective; in the meantime, it has primarily become a way to process my own feelings from these recent years. Luckily, many people also recognise themselves in it.”

Quote from https://www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com/en/winners/newcomer-2022-valentin-goppel.html

Valentin’s series has a closeness to it, the portraits are intimate and also casual but well composed and lighted, and the LOBA jury loved it. I concur.


Featured Artist : Kiana Hayeri

Kiana Hayeri (b.1988) is an Iranian descent Canadian photographer living in Kabul, Afghanistan. She has just been awarded the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2022 (LOBA) which started in 1979, rewarding work that deals with the relationship between human beings and their environment.

Her series Promises Written On The Ice, Left In The Sun is a result of her stay in Afghanistan over the last 8 years and centres around the daily lives of women and girls living under the conditions of war and of Taliban rule, since the hasty retreat of US and Western forces following the overthrow of the government in 2021. Her images from this series are hard hitting but tender in their depicting of suffering and the perseverance of the human spirit facing conflict ad destruction, and offers an insight into the current situation in Afghanistan, where daily survival is a struggle between the imposed restrictions on women in Taliban rule and the longing for a better future.

At the press conference at Wetzlar, Kiana said she doesn’t feel optimistic about the future of the country, despite the end of the war after the takeover by the Taliban. Violence and resistance groups are beginning to show their presence around the country.

Hafiza (70) reveals an open wound on her throat; a wound that doctors believe is caused by grief. Badakhshan, April 8, 2021. Four of Hafiza’s sons opted for different paths: they joined the army, the Taliban, or an anti-Taliban militia
In a local school that was set up by a teacher in the village of Hussain Khel, 25 high school girls cram together, everyday, to make the most out of the few hours of schooling. September 12, 2019
In the basement of an unfinished mosque, women mourn daughters and sisters killed in an attack. May 9, 2021. The powerful explosions, in the morning in front of a high school, killed at least 90 people, and injured a further 150. Many were teenage girls who were just coming out of class

“Afghanistan is still a country with open wounds that is struggling to heal”

During class at a school in the village of Khandood in the Wakhan Corridor, a girl whispers in her classmate’s ear. Wakhan, December 1, 2020. In Afghanistan, a largely traditional and conservative society, girls and boys are strictly separated, when they reach puberty
Nafas (20), who killed her husband, socialises with their cellmates and other incarcerated women. Herat, April 1, 2019. At the age of twelve, she had been made the second wife of an addicted and abusive man
With Kiana Hayeri at the Leica Gallery Wetzlar, October 2022

More about Kiana’s work can be seen at :




Marrakesh by M6

I just returned from Leica HQ at Wetzlar after attending the Celebration of Photography 2022 event in conjunction with the announcement of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) 2022 winners. Concurrently, Leica also revealed two new products, firstly the re-issue of their best selling film body, the Leica M6 released in 1984 and a new silver coloured Summilux M 35mm f1.4 lens. Responding to the current resurgence of analogue users amongst the photographic community worldwide, I think the 2022 M6 is a great idea and a brave move. I do wish Leica would bring back a lower priced entry level CL version to make it more accessible to enthusiasts.

These images were from a trip to Marrakesh in 2002, taken by my M6 bought used in 2000, on Fujifilm Neopan 400, my favourite black & white film and self-processed.

The M6 is now literally timeless.

Carnival – Up Close and Impersonal

After 2 years of Covid restrictions, Europe’s largest street party, the Nottinghill Carnival made a comeback appearance on the streets of West London, over the last Bank Holiday weekend in the UK. I went around 10am on the ‘Family Day’ Sunday, walking up the parade route in reverse which I always do, so as to encounter the bands and performers as they head out from the assembly point on Kensal Rise. It was a warm sunny day, but noticeable cooler than the heatwave of a few weeks earlier, which reached 35 – 40c. It was only 23c that morning but the sun was shining and it felt hotter, due to the fast-paced dodge-walking amongst tightly packed crowds and performers.

Family Day means fewer or no big costume floats, the kind that rivals the best of Rio, those are reserved for tomorrow, Monday. Nevertheless, there are plenty of sights and sounds to saviour as well as Caribbean street food, rum punch and beer.

I don’t think I got any ‘gems’ photographically this year as I didn’t stay on long enough after a quick lunch of jerk chicken and rice, but it was good to see visitors from all over the world back in London having a good time again.