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Kevin Faingnaert, House in the village of Gásadalur. Population: 16, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert
Kevin Faingnaert, House in the village of Gásadalur. Population: 16, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert

Photographer Who Couch-Surfed on the Faroe Islands Wins ZEISS Photo Award

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 14 March 2017

Kevin Faingnaert has been announced by the World Photography Organisation and ZEISS as the winner of the 2017 ZEISS Photography Award for his series that captures life on Europe’s best-kept secret, the Faroe Islands.

Responding to the photo award’s theme of ‘Meaningful Places’, the Belgian photographer’s winning series, Føroyar, looks at the small village communities of the remote Faroe Islands, a sparsely populated volcanic archipelago that sits halfway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic Sea. The stunning Faroe Islands are also a challenging place to live, which Faingnaert attempted to convey in his winning series: ‘I tried to reveal a community hanging on firmly to their roots and traditions, while underlining that one day these villages must inevitably disappear.’

Kevin Faingnaert, House in the village of Gásadalur. Population: 16, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert

Kevin Faingnaert, House in the village of Gásadalur. Population: 16, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert, Belgium, 1st Place, ZEISS Photography Award

Known for his work that focuses on small groups who live outside of mainstream culture, the social documentary photographer’s series captures the characters who live on the islands, such as the famous artist and adventurer, Tróndur Patursson, as well as the sheer seclusion of the wild landscape: ‘In February 2016 I immersed myself within the Faroese community. I couch-surfed and hitch-hiked my way across the islands, finding doors opening to me everywhere I went. There, across swathes of snow-veiled landscapes and bordered by dramatic coastline, villages are slowly dropping into decline as more and more of their inhabitants are emigrating from the islands in pursuit of greater opportunities.’

Kevin Faingnaert, Trontur Patursson, in Kirkjabøur, Faroe Islands, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert

Kevin Faingnaert, Tróndur Patursson in Kirkjabøur, Faroe Islands, 2017 | © Kevin Faingnaert, Belgium, 1st Place, ZEISS Photography Award

‘There is a wonderful completeness to Kevin’s series; epic landscapes mix with tenderly composed portraits, tied together by a soft muted palette, which immediately draws you in,’ said one of the judges Claire Richardson, picture editor of Lonely Planet Traveller.

Both the winner and the nine shortlisted photographers (featured below) were selected from over 31,000 images submitted by 4,677 photographers from 132 countries. Each were chosen for their ability to look beyond the everyday and the ordinary in order to capture the ‘extraordinary aspects of the world we live in.’ You’ll be able to see their work as part of the Sony World Photography Award in London later this year.

Shortlisted photographers

Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Portrait of the North, 2017 © Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Ghana, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Portrait of the North, 2017 | © Ben Bond Obiri Asamoah, Ghana, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Christopher Roche, Monlam Prayer Festival from 'Devotion, 2017 | © Christopher Roche, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Christopher Roche, Monlam Prayer Festival from ‘Devotion’, 2017 | © Christopher Roche, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Mario Adario, The exorcist from the series 'Ethiopian Christmas Pilgrimage to Lalibela', 2017 | © Mario Adario, Italy, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Mario Adario, The Exorcist from the series ‘Ethiopian Christmas Pilgrimage to Lalibela’, 2017 | © Mario Adario, Italy, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Fabian Muir, The hands that rock the cradle from the series 'Shades of Leisure in North Korea', 2017 | © Fabian Muir, Australia, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Fabian Muir, The hands that rock the cradle from the series ‘Shades of Leisure in North Korea’, 2017 | © Fabian Muir, Australia, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Anna Filipova, The Arctic Research station form teh series 'RESEARCH AT THE END OF THE WORLD', 2017 | © Anna Filipova, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Anna Filipova, The Arctic Research station from the series ‘Research at the end of the world’, 2017 | © Anna Filipova, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Nicky Newman, Place Of Water, 2017 | © Nicky Newman, South Africa, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Nicky Newman, Place Of Water, 2017 | © Nicky Newman, South Africa, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Sonja Hamad, Women, Life, Freedom, 2017 | © Sonja Hamad, Germany, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Sonja Hamad, Women, Life, Freedom, 2017 | © Sonja Hamad, Germany, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Frederik Buyckx, Leaving Town from the series 'Horse Head', 2017 | © Frederik Buyckx, Belgium, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Frederik Buyckx, Leaving Town from the series ‘Horse Head’, 2017 | © Frederik Buyckx, Belgium, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Nicholas White, Giles at Camasunary Bothy, Isle of Skye, Scotland from the series 'Black Dots', 2017 | © Nicholas White, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award

Nicholas White, Giles at Camasunary Bothy, Isle of Skye, Scotland from the series ‘Black Dots’, 2017 | © Nicholas White, United Kingdom, Shortlist, ZEISS Photography Award


Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr – 2017 Exhibition will be at Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA from April 21 to May 7, 2017.