For the 2019 Zeiss Photography Award, the brief was to show 'The Unexpected' - looking past the every day and addressing something unforeseen or surprising instead.

Entrants were asked to submit a series of five to ten images showing the unexpected, whether in landscape photos, images of the physical environment, human expression or something more conceptual.  This brief meant the subject could be anything from a global issue to a very personal concern, giving photographers plenty of artistic freedom. 

In the end, 58,000 images were submitted by photographers from around the world. 150 countries submitted entries to be judged by Simon Frederick (artist, photographer, director and broadcaster, UK), Shoair Mavlian (Director, Photoworks, UK) and Dagmar Seeland (Picture Editor, STERN Magazine, Germany). 

Seven photographers were shortlisted by the judges and one winner was chosen, we've got the gallery of their images for you to enjoy. 

Rory Doyle/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 2

Delta Hill Riders by Rory Doyle - Winner 

American photographer Rory Doyle had his series of images "Delta Hill Riders" chosen as the winner of this year's competition. This collection includes numerous photos to set to challenge the classic stereotypes of cowboy culture.

The series highlights how "just after the Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American" and yet are vastly underrepresented in American culture. 

Commenting on the series, he said:

"The work is timely with the current political environment, and a renewed focus on rural America. The project is a counter-narrative to the often-negative portrayal of African Americans. I have captured riders showing love for their horses and fellow cowboys, while also passing down traditions among generations. Ultimately, the project aims to press against my own old archetypes - who could and couldn’t be a cowboy, and what it means to be black in Mississippi - while uplifting the voices of my subjects."

As the winner of this year's competition, Rory Doyle is set to collect a prize pot that includes €12,000 worth of ZEISS lenses, €3,000 to cover travel costs for another photography project and future opportunities to work with Zeiss and the World Photography Organisation too. 

Benedicte Kurzen & Sanne De Wilde/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 4

Land of Ibeji by Benedicte Kurzen & Sanne De Wilde 

Land of Ibeji is a series of images by Benedicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde that was selected from the thousands of entrants as a shortlisted series that stood out from the crowd. This series explores the mythology of twinhood in Nigeria. 

This image from the series shows:

"Kehinde Deborah and Taiwo Celestine, 10yo. Twins stand on a little monticule at the end of a celebration day at the Celestial Church on a rainy season afternoon. The identical twin sisters are dressed all in white, bare foot, as the Celestial church proscribes.

Igbo-Ora, the self-proclaimed 'Twin Capital of the World' has earned its nickname by the unusually large number of twin births in the region. Research has suggested that the multiple births could be related to the (over)consumption of local crops by the women in the region of Igbo Ora.

Although no direct relation between dietary intake and twin births has been proved, a research study carried out by the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital has suggested that a chemical found in Igbo-Ora women and the peelings of a widely consumed tuber (yams) could be causing twins births. Another possible explanation is genetics.

In this image, a purple filter is applied (on the flash, not in post-production). To create an aesthetic language that highlights and empowers the belief that twins are "magical" and 'supernatural' 2 colour filters (purple & red) were used, amplifying the duality of; two individuals, two photographers, two identities; two perceptions coloured differently. Colours symbolising contradictory beliefs: purple for the spiritual and heavenly and red for the earthly, danger."

"Land of Ibeji is a collaborative photographic project exploring the mythology of twinhood in Nigeria. West Africa, and specifically Yorubaland, which has ten times more twins than any other region in the world. “Ibeji” means “double birth” and “the inseparable two” in Yoruba. The intention of the work is to open the viewer’s eyes to the concept of the twin as a mythological figure and as a powerful metaphor describing the duality within humankind."

Ken Hermann/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 6

Mallakhamba by Ken Hermann

Mallakhamba by Ken Hermann was another series of images shortlisted by the judges and shows an unusual sport that blends gymnastics, yoga and more to create some incredible displays in an urban setting. 

"The work of photographer Ken Hermann focuses on the balance between people and their environment. His shortlisted series Mallakhamba was shot in Mumbai and captures the sport of Mallakhamba; a blend of gymnastics, yoga and wrestling grips, which come together around a hanging rope or a stationary pole. The resulting images create amazing formations of interlocking bodies and balances."

Michela Carmazzi/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 8

I wish I were British by Michela Carmazzi

I wish I were British is a collection of self-portraits with an unusual twist. These images portray the state of uncertainty that European migrants find themselves induring the midst of Brexit. 

"London-based artist Carmazzi works across both photography and film. With Europe in a state of flux, Carmazzi's timely series I wish I were British is a series of self-portraits investigating the relationship between personal identity and freedom of movement. The project was a way for the artist to process the experience of Brexit and the state of uncertainty that European migrants find themselves in"

Petra Leary/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 10

Daily Geometry by Petra Leary

Daily Geometry might not feature the most unusual scenes but it does highlight the amazing shapes and symmetry of the basketball courts of New Zealand when captured from above.  Petra Leary is already an award-winning aerial photographer and that skill earned this photographer a shortlisting in the Zeiss photography awards with this series of images. 

"Award-winning aerial photographer Petra Leary is recognised for Daily Geometry. Taken across 2017-2018, the series highlights the amazing shapes and symmetry of basketball courts in New Zealand. Heavily influenced by the photographer’s experience in graphic design, the work is bright, bold and eye-catching."

Lara Wilde/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 12

Exposed Landscapes by Lara Wilde

Exposed Landscapes was another series of images selected for the shortlist by the judges. This collection shows an unusual view of people as they wouldn't normally be seen - the loneliness people experience behind closed doors. 

Lara Wilde described the collection in her own words:

"City people; we hurry between coffee shops, clubs and busy sidewalks, in the middle of everything, with our shiny Instagram feeds, always in a swarm. Until we enter out tiny apartments and step into loneliness, behind closed doors. Here, in the darkness of our own thoughts, something that was hidden in the sparkling world outside catches up with us. And sometimes, in the blink of an eye, our entire world changes and suddenly we can see things how they really are. For this project, I met strangers in the middle of the night in Berlin, talked to them and photographed them in the comfort of the darkness and told their stories with light. I uncovered layers of their personality until the skeleton of reality was revealed. In the process, I photographed their lives in a documentary way, but staged their stories by using artificial light."

Gangfeng Zhou/ZEISS Photography AwardUnexpected photographic brilliance from the Zeiss Photography Awards 2019 image 14

'Like' and 'Companionship', there is no distinction by Gangfeng Zhou (岗峰 周)

'Like' and 'Companionship', there is no distinction is a series by Gangfeng Zhou that shows the relationship between people and some silicone dolls which simulate real human bodies. Another exploration of loneliness or a view of a different culture? Either way, these images were interesting enough to see the photographer's work shortlisted for the awards. 

"Entity dolls, including silicone dolls and "reborn" dolls, simulate real human bodies, with skin, hair, eyes and eyelashes. Silicone dolls were created as an adult product, available in offline erotic stores, and prejudice from the outside world has made "Doll Friends" cautious. But the Internet is more inclusive and gentler.

In the Chinese market, far more dolls are sold on e-commerce platform Taobao than offline. Through buying dolls or communicating with each other, many people have realized their dreams on Taobao. Regardless of their original purpose, in the hearts of "Doll Friends", these dolls surpass their stereotypes. Some are obsessed with dolls' physical perfection. They are always young and immortal: if a doll has a defect, you can repair it or swap it for a new one. Some also use silicone dolls as companions. Behind the prosperity of the city there is always alienation and people face a dilemma of the spirit. Real people may betray each other, quarrel, and be avaricious, but dolls are always safe."

"Hangzhou photographer Gangfeng Zhou is recognized for ‘Like’ and ‘Companionship’, there is no distinction. The arresting work visualizes the relationship between people and their ‘entity dolls’, silicone dolls which simulate real human bodies, with skin, hair, eyes and eyelashes. "

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