Interview with Gen Sadakane, Co-Founder and Creative Director of EyeEm

Things are getting exciting: the jury has now received all the nominations for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2020. In its 40th year, LOBA winners are, for the first time, to be chosen from among nominations submitted by 65 renowned photography experts from all over the world. Based upon these submissions, the jury is in the process of putting together a short list that will soon be presented on the LOBA website. The LOBA 2020 main and newcomer award recipients will be announced this October.

Gen Sadakane is among the nominators. He is Co-Founder and Creative Director of the global photo community EyeEm. Established as a start-up in Berlin, EyeEm has developed in recent years to become an innovative digital photography platform for discovering, sharing and purchasing pictures.

In your opinion, how important is LOBA compared with other photo awards?

The continuity of LOBA speaks for itself, including last year’s winners, of course. LOBA represents quality and stands out among the many other photo awards. I’m very proud to have been able to play a small part in the process this year.

Did you have any personal connection to the LOBA or to Leica, before taking on the task of nominator?

Not personally; but as a person who loves design and detail, I love Leica – the philosophy, the products and the brand.

What international renown did LOBA have in the past; and what should the future of LOBA look like?

As a brand, it’s always important to operate internationally, and to give something back to the global community. That’s how I see this competition. The respective quality of the bodies of work will prevail, and I’m excited to see who the 2020 winners will be. It’s important to try out new things, within the established format; to be open to new categories. I always want to see diversity, from the jury and the series, all the way to the winners.

Could you give us an idea of how you went about making the selection for your LOBA proposals – in particular from your perspective as Co-Founder of the EyeEm platform?

I have seen so many bodies of work and, of course, I have my preferences: artists whom I like, both young and older; but I always try to recognise specific ideas and quality. This is what I based my personal selection on – including work from outside the EyeEm community. I’m interested in many different types of art; I’m not so strict in that sense. When the quality and the idea are there, and they trigger something in the viewer, then the work should be acknowledged.

What advantages do you see to a pre-selection by international experts?

Diversity. It is quite simply exciting; and I also hope to see talent that I haven’t seen before. Even though I have already seen a lot on global platforms, such as Instagram or EyeEm, a selection by international experts will be even broader.

Does the fact that you are the only nominator from Germany have a particular meaning for you?

When I realised this was the case, I felt very honoured. However, I believe that all the nominators are cosmopolitan and they don’t just represent individual countries.

“The medium of photography needs to expand, and allow itself to be inspired by technologies and other things. Exciting topics and work can only arise by combining different things.”

What would you recommend young photographers to do in order to become visible and receive support?

It’s not only young photographers I recommend it to: go out, and exchange ideas with as many people as possible, and from the most diverse areas with different passions; because, if you only exchange ideas with photographers, I’m convinced that you won’t be exposed to anything really new. That’s why the medium of photography also needs to expand, and allow itself to be inspired by technologies and other things. Exciting topics and work can only arise by combining different things. That alone will be enough to make you visible.

What is your perception of the current photography market?

Every market is having a hard time right now. It’s been like that for the photo market for some time; but even so, good ideas and quality will survive and stand out. I think that the Berlin Photo Week is a good example of a place for trying out and combining new ideas.

What do you wish for and hope to see in the photography of the future?

There will always be a passion for photography – I’m absolutely convinced of that.

Gen Sadakane

Gen Sadakane was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, where he studied Visual Communications and Philosophy. He is Co-Founder and Creative Director of EyeEm and the Berlin Photo Week. Earlier on, he was a Designer and Creative Director for TBWA, McCann, Jung von Matt, DDB and Leo Burnett. He has won over 100 international prizes, including the Cannes Lions Gold for Volkswagen and Bosch. In 2019, the Berlin Photo Week drew over 30,000 visitors.

Portrait: © Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek