Leica announces winners of inaugural photo grant program

Meet the winners of the Leica Women Foto Project Award.

Man in khaki coat and head cover
Issa A.Debi Cornwall

Last week Leica Camera USA announced the winners of its inaugural photo grant program created specifically to support female photographers. Debi Cornwall, Yana Paskova and Eva Woolridge all received $10,000 and a Leica Q2 as part of the Leica Women Foto Project Award. The funds will support their personal projects for the next year. The new award received over 600 submissions from across the U.S. Here is what we know about the winners and the work that they intend to pursue in the next year.

Debi Cornwall's series Necessary Fictions explores the staging and performative aspects of American power through military wargames. The photographer documents the mock Afghan and Iraqi villages that have been constructed on military bases across the United States that are used as immersive training spaces, intended to prepare troops before they deploy. Cornwall says that she intends to use the Leica Women Foto Project Award money to continue exploring how fiction and reality blur within these spaces.

Man in khaki coat and head cover
Training VillageDebi Cornwall

Yana Paskova's project Where Women Rule documents areas of the world where the cultural norms of gender have been removed. She does this by documenting all-female societies "where women gather for shelter or in matriarchy." The Brooklyn-based photojournalist started this specific project in Varanasi, India with the help of a grant from Getty. The support from Leica will help her continue the narrative.

Eva Woolridge, a self-proclaimed African-American and Chinese-American queer woman, was selected for her project The Size of a Grapefruit is a highly-personal photo project about the artist's traumatic experience following her diagnosis of a dermoid cyst, which eventually lead to the removal of her right ovary. In the series Woolridge explores how her case was handled, and her belief that her ovary might have been saved if doctors had acted faster. She intends to use the money from the award to bring more stories of black women and their experiences of racial bias to the forefront.

The work of these three women will be on view at the Leica Gallery in Boston starting in March 2020.

female soldier with neck wound
Haley NDebi Cornwall
Widows sitting together in Varanasi India
Widows Meena Devi, 78, Sita Devi, 52, and Savitri Devi, who estimates she is 80 years old, sing and and pray at Rak Kuti ashram in Varanasi, India on January 07, 2019. Sita's mother-in-law, Goma Devi, who estimates she is 90 years old, also lives in the ashram.Yana Paskova
widow in white bent over in the streets of Varanasi
A man walks by Ratan Devi Mata, 82 years old, as she moves through the streets of Varanasi, India in a bent position on January 05, 2019. Ratan is originally from Nepal. After her husband left her for another woman a day following their wedding, she tried to live with her in-laws, but daily fighting motivated her to join Birla ashram instead. Ratan believes she will attain Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth) if she dies here. She receives a monthly pension of 2,000 rupees from Sulabh International.Yana Paskova
A widow sitting in the couch in Durga Kund Help Line ashram
Nanki Mata, a widow who estimates she is 75 years old, poses for a portrait in the Durga Kund Help Line ashram in Varanasi, India on January 08, 2019. Nanki says she has spent two years in this ashram, after her husband was thrown in prison for getting in a fight, and passed away from injuries to his body. Her daughter got married, so no one looked after her - then the daughter died as well. She has two other children, but didn't want to go her son's or her other daughter's in-laws because she says that's not how tradition works here. She is left with no contact with her relatives, nor was she aware that she had legal rights on her property, so whatever little her husband had, was taken away by his brothers. "My husband is not here, how would I fight?" she says.Yana Paskova
dark skinned woman holding fruit behind her back
DenialEva Woolridge
dark skinned woman hunched forward with painful expression
PainEva Woolridge
dark skinned woman holding fruit in front of her
ReflectionEva Woolridge