Open Call 2023

Announcement of  the winning projects


We are delighted to announce the five winning projects and extend our congratulations to those awarded in this year’s Open Call on our festival theme of Synthesis, which will be exhibited in our upcoming edition, opening in late May 2024.

We thank our international jury of experts, who reviewed every single one of the 325 portfolios we received from all around the world, with the utmost interest and attention: Sue Barr, Professor of Architectural Photography at Hochschule of Munich, Daniel Blochwitz, Curator of the Fotofestival Lenzburg, Margherita Guerra, Director of the Fotofestival Lenzburg, Elisa Medde, Independent Curator and Lars Willumeit, Curator at Photo Elysée.

We’d like to express our gratitude towards all photographers who shared their projects with us: Although not selected, we appreciated all submissions we received and were impressed by the overall quality.

Special mention for the shortlisted photographers, who were not among the final winners, but whose projects stood out for their excellence and remarkable depth: Ismail Ferdous from Bangladesh, Khashayar Javanmardi from Iran, Lee-Marie Sadek from France, Marjolein Blom from the Netherlands, Melissa Grace Kreider from the USA, Tomasz Kawecki from Poland.


Federico Estol, Uruguay

Shine Heroes

Winner of the Jury Award

Over the last three years, Uruguayan artist Federico Estol, collaborated extensively with a group of shoeshiners associated with the social organization Hormigón Armado, with the intention to support the families of thousands of shoeshiners in La Paz and El Alto, in Bolivia: borrowing from the visual language of comic books and graphic novels, through the lens of Estol, the shoeshiners are no longer outcasts, but urban superheroes.

This project will participate in the Bold and Talented program, supported by the BAT Foundation.

Sabine Hess, Switzerland

You Felt the Roots Grow


“Ich halte deine Hand und versuche vorsichtig, sie zu erfassen. Präge mir die Beschaffenheit deiner faltigen Haut ein, die Wärme deiner Berührung, die Art, wie sich deine Finger um meine legen.”

“I hold your hand and, carefully, try to capture it. Imprint on my brain the texture of your wrinkly skin, the warmth of your touch, the way your fingers wrap around mine.”  The 28-year-old Swiss photographer Sabine Hess, embarks on an exploration of life’s contrasting cycles in her project “You Felt the Roots Grow.” The project delves into the emotional deep end of existential topics of death and birth, facing the bittersweetness of transience, the melancholic poetry that permeates every sense of loss and the incompleteness of memory.

This project will be participate to the Bold and Talented program, supported by the BAT Foundation.

Mattia Balsamini, Italy

Protege Noctem (If darkness disappeared)

Winner of the Artist Residency

Blinded by the stray from billions of artificial lights, the night sky has become a tarnished patchwork, an imposter to eras gone by: 83% of the world’s population has never seen the Milky Way, 95% of stars are now invisible to the naked eye in the many megacities. Artificial lights dazzle the nocturnal ecosystem and affect the health of humans and nature negatively. Protege Noctem by the Italian photographer Mattia Balsamini documents the alliance scientists and citizens have formed to rally against the disappearance of the night and its creatures.

The Fotofestival is delighted to support Balsamini’s research, adding a Swiss chapter, with the Artist Residency in December at the Villa Müllerhaus, thanks to the generous support of the Ortsbürgergemeinde Lenzburg.

Paulo Simão, Portugal



Do we need new monuments or even different forms of celebration? What to do with monuments that already exist in public spaces, which often evoke historical events anachronistic to our own time and that collide with a more humanist vision of society? By manipulating a set of images from the US Library of Congress, the Portuguese artist Paulo Simão reframes the archive and develops a series that invites us to a reflection on validating certain values, knowledge, historical events or collective memories.

This project will partecipate in the Bold and Talented program, supported by the BAT Foundation.

Jansen van Staden, Soth Africa



After his father’s death, Jansen van Staden discovered a letter written by his dad, describing to his psychotherapist the time as a conscript in the South African Border War. The discovery finally lifts a veil on untold stories and hidden dramas, that had affected the life of the author’s family. The resulting photographic project is a journey back in order to understand and redeem the beloved figure, but also to reveal the monstrosity of ideas and actions that have shaped entire generations.

This project will participate in the Bold and Talented program, supported by the BAT Foundation.