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Romain Mader wins Foam Paul Huf young photographers award for “naive and absurd” work

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Romain Mader / ECAL: Bientôt, from Ekaterina series

Dutch gallery Foam has announced the winner of its Foam Paul Huf Award for emerging young photographers. Romain Mader, born in 1988 in Switzerland, has been awarded the €20,000 prize and an exhibition in Foam for his “naive” and “absurd” images.

This is the 11th year of the award, given annually to a photographer under 35. Romain won particularly for his Ekaterina series, produced while at ECAL, which follows the fictional tale of the photographer seeking a bride in an imaginary city.

100 photographers from 25 countries were nominated for this year’s prize, while previous winners include Japanese photographer Daisuke Yokota (whose exhibition opens today), Daniel Gordon, Alexander Gronsky and Leonie Hampton.

The jury included Teju Cole, photo critic for The New York Times Magazine; Lucy Conticello, director of photography for M, Le Magazine du Monde and Shi Hantao, research director at China’s Shanghai Project.

“Romain Mader’s Ekatarina is notable for the humour and irony with which he addresses serious issues: solitude, love, exploitation and the female body,” the jury says. “In a slick style familiar from commercial snapshots, social media and tourist material, we are drawn into a world of exploited women, mail-order brides, sexual tourism, and pervasive media attention. But [Romain’s] depiction is funny, naive, absurd, light-hearted, and it is this contrast between the subject and its exploration that gives Ekaterina its unexpectedly moving power.

“We strongly believe that he is an artist of remarkable sensibility and subtlety, and that he is destined to be a notable voice in contemporary photography.”

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Romain Mader / ECAL: Demande en Marriage, from Ekaterina series

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Romain Mader / ECAL: Moraliste, from Ekaterina series

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Romain Mader / ECAL: Publicité 1, from Ekaterina series

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Romain Mader / ECAL: Valentine’s Day in London #1, from Ekaterina series