Chilean photographer Tomas Munita has won the 2006 Leica Oskar Barnack Award for his photo report “Kabul – Leaving the Shadows.” The 31-year-old photographer spent the last year living in Afghanistan and working for the Associated Press.

Munita accepted his award at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in France July 6 and gave thanks to the “peaceful and brave people of Afghanistan.”

Faced with the choice of either a 5,000 Euro cash prize or a Leica M series digital rangefinder camera, Munita opted for the latter, even though the camera has not yet been released. A Leica official who presented Munita with the award admitted it had been a “difficult year” for the camera maker, but hinted that the digital M series model is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

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The title “Leaving the Shadows” alludes to both the form — many of the pictures were taken during the twilight hours — and the content; Munita’s photos seem to give hope to the idea that the Afghan people may be emerging from a long period of turmoil. Still, the vestiges of war — such as spent ammunition shells and destroyed military vehicles — are pervasive in his photos.

Munita studied photography from 1994 to 1997, and from 1998 to 2000 he worked for the daily newspaper El Metropolitano in Santiago. He began working for the Associated Press in 2003, with a focus on Latin America, before embarking on his yearlong assignment in Afghanistan last year. In 2005 Munita won the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for Young Photographer. He has since returned to his home city of Santiago to continue his career as a freelance photographer.

James Whitlow Delano, an American photographer living in Tokyo and represented by Redux Pictures, won the honorable mention for his project “Japan Mangaland,” a highly personal, black and white journey through the cities and streets of Tokyo. (Stay tuned to in the coming week for a podcast interview with Delano.)

The international jury gives the Leica Oskar Barnack Award to the photographer whose powers of observation most vividly express man’s relationship to his environment in a photo series consisting of up to 12 pictures.

Applications for the 2007 award should be sent no later than January 31, 2007 to:

Leica Camera SARL / “Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2007”
106, boulevard Heloise / F-95814 Argenteuil-Cedex

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