ZEISS Photography Award 2019

"Seeing Beyond – The Unexpected"

Photographers are asked for a creative response to the brief of "The Unexpected" that is driven by a strong and clear narrative. To be understood in its broadest sense, "The Unexpected" challenges photographers to submit a series of 5-10 images that look past the everyday and address something unforeseen or surprising – whether this is through the landscape and the physical environment, through human expression, emotion and interaction, through political or social causes or something more conceptual. The 'unexpected' element could be of global or very personal concern and may either showcase the familiar in a new way or shed light on something entirely different. All types of photography are welcomed by judges.

The ZEISS Photography Award is jointly organized by ZEISS and the World Photography Organisation. Last year, around 12,000 photographers from 140 countries submitted nearly 90,000 photos.

The competition is closed, many thanks to all participants. The winner will be announced soon.

22 November 2018 until 8 February 2019


Participants are required to submit a series of five to ten photographs, including a description of the images, online. The submission period begins on November 22, 2018 and ends on February 8, 2019.

You wish to submit your photos?


On April 9, 2019, we are going to announce the shortlist with the 15 best photo series and the winner. The winner will receive attractive prizes: ZEISS camera lenses of their choice worth a total of 12,000 euros, and 3,000 euros to cover travels costs for a photo project. The award ceremony will take place on 17 April 2019 as part of the Sony World Photography Awards in London. The winning photos plus a selection of those shortlisted will be on display at Somerset House in London. The winner will attend the opening of the exhibition. ZEISS will also invite the winner to visit company headquarters in Germany. There they will get a peek behind the scenes at ZEISS and have ample opportunity to test out ZEISS lenses for themselves. The winner will also have the chance to collaborate directly with ZEISS and the World Photography Organisation.


The submitted photographs will be judged by a renowned jury that is composed of three international experts from the photography industry. The jury will evaluate both the photographic quality as well as the creativity of the works. The jury is particularly looking for a powerful story that is clearly recognizable in the images.

Simon Frederick

Artist, Photographer, Director and Broadcaster

Simon was the lead judge on Sky Arts series “Master of Photography”, co-hosting with Hollywood royalty Isabella Rossellini. His portraits, made during the filming of the TV series “Black Is The New Black”, made history as the largest acquisition of African-Caribbean sitters by the National Portrait Gallery. Simon's new series “They've Gotta Have Us” aired on the BBC in October 2018 and he has made portraits of these cinematic legends too. Simon was honoured to be recently profiled amongst 2018's 100 'Most Influential Black Britons' in the category of Media, Publishing, & Entertainment.

Shoair Mavlian

Director, Photoworks

Shoair Mavlian is director of Photoworks and is responsible for curating the 2018 Brighton Photo Biennial. From 2011-2018 she was Assistant Curator, Photography and International Art at Tate Modern, London, where she curated multiple major exhibitions including ‘Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art’ (2018), 'The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection' (2016) and 'Harry Callahan' (2013). While at Tate Modern she also researched acquisitions and curated displays from the permanent collection including ‘Dayanita Singh’ (2017) and 'Lynn Cohen and Taryn Simon' (2017). Recent independent curatorial projects include the exhibition 'Don McCullin: Looking Beyond the Edge' (Les Rencontres d'Arles, 2016).

Dagmar Seeland

Photo Editor and Writer, STERN magazine

Dagmar has worked as an editor and photo editor for a variety of lifestyle magazines before joining the German weekly STERN in 1999 as a photo editor for the magazine itself and other titles in the STERN group. There she enjoyed the opportunity to work with and commission some of the biggest names in photography, and to discover and nurture a host of new talent. As a writer herself she is particularly passionate about photography’s role in storytelling, and truly understands the process and collaboration that is required to make visual ideas work.

Key dates

  • 22 November 2018, 11am CET: Competition open for submissions
  • 8 February 2019, 2pm CET: Competition closed for submissions
  • 9 April 2019: Release of the shortlist and announcement of the winner
  • 17 April 2019: Award ceremony and gala dinner London
  • 18 April to 6 May 2019: The winning photo series and selected photos from the shortlist exhibited at Somerset House in London

"The ZEISS Photography Award was a great opportunity for me because it opened up windows to exposure of my own work where I alone would have never gotten by myself."

Tamina-Florentine Zuch, Winner ZEISS Photography Award 2016
Tamina-Florentine Zuch, Germany, 2016 ZEISS Photography Award © Tamina-Florentine Zuch, Germany, 2016 ZEISS Photography Award

"Due to photo editors having seen my work through the news of winning the ZEISS Photography Award, my personal documentary work has since gone on to be printed in magazines and newspaper around the world. Winning the award helped secure more clients but, more importantly, my self-confidence as a photographer has certainly grown since the win."

Kevin Faingnaert, Winner ZEISS Photography Award 2017
Kevin Faingnaert, Belgium, 2017 ZEISS Photography Award © Kevin Faingnaert, Belgium, 2017 ZEISS Photography Award

"After winning the ZEISS Photography Award, I got a lot of requests from international magazines, also the big magazines. There was a lot of international attention, all of a sudden. This award really stimulates you to do what you do, to continue working."

Nick Hannes, Winner ZEISS Photography Award 2018
Nick Hannes, Belgium, 2018 ZEISS Photography Award © Nick Hannes, Belgium, 2018 ZEISS Photography Award