Felix Schoeller Photo Award: German Peace Prize for Photography 2023

The "German Peace Award for Photography" goes to the German photographer Sebastian Wells and his Ukrainian project partner Vsevolod Kazarin.

With their current work about young people in Kiev, the two photographers are making a statement in the midst of the war in Ukraine: Young people defy war and present themselves with admirable individual strength and courage. The "German Peace Award for Photography" is a joint initiative of the internationally operating specialty paper manufacturer Felix Schoeller and the Peace City Osnabrück. It is endowed with prize money of 10,000 euros. The winning series as well as the works of all nominees will be exhibited in the Museumsquartier in Osnabrück until August 6, 2023.
The German Peace Award for Photography honors works that deal photographically and conceptually with the theme of peace. "This year, the German Peace Award for Photography takes special focus as our hometown of Osnabrück celebrates the anniversary of 375 years of the Peace of Westphalia. At the same time, we are witnessing a cold-blooded war of aggression in Europe. In view of today's geopolitical situation, we feel our commitment as an obligation more than ever. With the Peace Prize, we want to make the quest for peace a photographic theme and communicate it," says Hans-Christoph Gallenkamp, CEO of Felix Schoeller.
This year's award-winning work has a special story. When Ukrainian fashion photographer Vsevolod Kazarin and German documentary photographer Sebastian Wells met in Kiev in 2022, they decided to start a joint photo project: a series of portraits of a young generation of creatives in Kiev against the backdrop of growing up in the midst of revolution, conflict and war. Using the means of documentary photography, they portrayed the protagonists from their respective situations in their personal environments. The images are not just a style reportage, but testimony to a historical moment: in the midst of times of war and violence, this photo-artistic project shows the power of the medium of photography as a fundamental form of resistance against tyranny, war and oppression.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schneckener, jury member and Professor of International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies at the Center for Democracy and Peace Research (ZeDF) at the University of Osnabrück and Chairman of the Board of the German Foundation for Peace Research: "The award-winning work shows young Ukrainian artists and activists in Kiev a few weeks after the war began. Their faces show shock on the one hand, but on the other hand also the determined resistance with which they confront the threat. They are documents of the emancipation of a young generation that wants to defend the freedoms and rights it has won. The excellent photographs make it clear how much freedom and peace belong together."Michael Dannenmann, Chairman of the Jury of the Felix Schoeller Photo Award: "This excellent and bizarre-looking imagery by Sebastian Wells and Vsevolod Kazarin captures the attitude to life of an entire generation - a photographic work that wonderfully takes us into the protagonists' world of thought." And jury member Hannah Schuh adds: "The two photographers are close to their generation in Kyiv, showing civilians as self-confident citizens of their city in their collaborative project. The duo proves that new perspectives open up together."
Vsevolod Kazarin (b. 2000) is a young Ukrainian artist working with photography. He was born in the Luhansk region and grew up in a Kiev suburb, where he lives today. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in photography from the National University of Culture and Art in Kiev, Vsevolod works on artistic, editorial and commercial projects. He tries to find ways to use photography as a visual language to reflect on the horrific reality of the Ukraine war.
Sebastian Wells (b. 1996) was born and raised in Berlin. As a member of the Berlin-based photographer collective Ostkreuz, he works as a documentary photographer both on commission and on his own projects. He studied photography at the Ostkreuzschule in Berlin, at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences and at the KASK School of Arts in Ghent. After the outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine, he decided to travel to Kyiv and met Vsevolod there. Together they not only photographed as a team, but also founded soлomiya, a pannational artist magazine that is published in both Germany and Ukraine and distributed worldwide.
The submissions to the German Peace Prize for Photography this year showed excellent, sometimes very depressing series of pictures, many of which deal with the effects of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine.
But not only: There were also photo series from other conflict areas such as Syria, Yemen, Iran or Afghanistan to see. Major current issues such as flight or climate change were also accentuated. Often these works provide a different view of war, violence or protest and represent impressive appeals to humanity, resistance and justice.
In addition to the winners, Aljoscha (Germany), Yagazie Emezi (Nigeria), Cèsar Dezfuli (Spain) and Mattia Velati (Italy) were nominated for the German Peace Award for Photography.