Portrait | Winner

Karolin Klüppel

Berlin/Germany www.karolinklueppel.de

Mädchenland (2013-2014)


In the state of Meghalaya in India, the indigenous people of the Khasi form the majority of the population with 1.1 million members. The Khasi are a matrilineal society. Here, it is traditionally the girls who are of particular importance and who play an exposed role in the family.

The line of succession passes through the youngest daughter. If she marries, her husband is taken into her family's home, and the children take their mother's name. A family with just sons is considered unlucky, because only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan.

Succession after the maternal line guarantees girls and women in Meghalaya a unique economic and social independence compared to general Indian conditions. To disrespect a woman in the Khasi culture means to harm the society.

Between 2013 and 2014, I spent nine months in the Khasi village of Mawlynnong in north-east India, a village of just 95 dwellings. In this series, I concentrate on the girls themselves, by contextualising them in their everyday physical environment through a sensitive balance between documentation and composition.


Karolin Klüppel, born 1985 in Kassel, Germany. Karolin Klüppel studied photography at the city’s School of Art and Design and made a vertical take-off with exhibitions in Arles, Geneva and New York. The images of her portfolio titled ‘Mädchenland’ (Girl’s Country’), her winning entry for the Felix Schoeller Photo Award, are extracts from a series of pictures shot for National Geographic. Her work was also honoured with the Canon ProfiFoto award. The award-winner has lived in Berlin since 2010.

Prizes and scholarships

2014 Winner of the Canon ProfiFoto award for young photographers for ‘Mädchenland’

2013 Artist Residency with scholarship – Vice-Versa Foundation, India

2013 Artist Residency - Arteles Creative Centre, Finland

2013 Les Boutographies, Montpellier, France: Nomination for the Jury Prize

2012 Voies Off Festival Arles, France: Nomination for the Voies Off Prize

2009 ‘Spaziergang’ (Walk) Kassel: Award for the most irritating artwork

Jury Statement

With her project titled ‘Mädchenland’, photographer Karolin Klüppel, a graduate of the School of Art and Design in Kassel, convinced the jury not only as the winner in the category ‘Portrait’, but also as the overall winner. In her work, Karolin Klüppel immerses herself in the life of Indian girls who take on a very dominant role in the matrilinear society of the Khasi tribe at a very early age. Her simultaneously documentary and picturesquely composed photography shows these girls in their everyday environment. The consciously posed images swing between composition and documentation. In her own impressive and expressive way, Karolin Klüppel tracks down and reveals the grown-up behaviour in the identities of these girls as children. The result is a set of sensitive and impressive portraits that bear witness to an exceptional empathy between the photographer and her subjects. Fascinating and poetic. Every image is like a portrait in oils that captivates the viewer at first glance.