2023 AAA Anthropology Photo Contest Selections Announced

Congratulations to the 12 AAA members whose photos were selected as winners of the 2023 AAA Anthropology Photo Contest. Winners will be featured on AAA’s social media, website, and annual report. The top 3 winners will also be featured in the Anthropology News print edition. We received more than 180 incredible photographs from anthropologists showcasing their work across the globe, and we’re thrilled to share the winners with you.

This year’s winners are:

The Monk’s Eyes of Wisdom

by Raymond Yin (Collaborator: Gellan Feng)

A monk wearing an orange-brown cassock and Buddhist beads around his neck covers his mouth with his rough hands as he stands at the entrance of a doorway looking out. Faint door nails and glistening rows of enshrined Buddha statues can be seen in the background. On the right side of the picture, the back of a monk can be seen as he walks past the door.

The old monk covered his cheeks and stopped after the morning class at the Xiangshan Monastery, revealing his eyes that contained wisdom beyond the world, as if he had read all the world. This photo was taken after the morning class of the monks of the Xiangshan Monastery in Ningbo, China. This photograph is full of Buddhist elements, including a pillar featuring a Buddhist swastika symbol for auspiciousness and rows of enshrined Buddha statues. The elements represent a religion that has been passed down for thousands of years, indicating that Buddhism continues to be important in regulating the relationship between people and society.

Gordon Barney and Andrew Daylight agentively negotiate the pastoral industry in Western Australia

by Catherine Massola

Two Australian Aboriginal men stand side by side wearing stockwork attire. The man to the left is wearing a black Akubra hat, red shirt, blue jeans and tan boots and is smiling to the camera with his hands behind his back. The man to the right is wearing a tan hat, sunglasses, a red checkered shirt, dark jeans and red boots and he is standing with his arms to his side. The background is of desert terrain with trees and mountains in the distance.

During my fieldwork in 2012, Gordon Barney and Andrew Daylight asked me to photograph their new stockwork clothing. My research explores the complexities of the pastoral industry and its influence on, as well as from, Aboriginal people in Western Australia. Pastoralism developed in the late nineteenth century and disrupted Indigenous lives through indentured labour and loss of land. Aboriginal people adopted various strategies to survive during its expansion. Today, Gordon and his son Andrew help manage their family’s station, which has been transformed into a tourist campground. Unremittingly, Gija people negotiate their relationship with pastoralism.

Unveiling pride on Instagram

by Rita Reis

In the top left of the image a person wearing a pink lengthy fabric that wraps around the entire head and body strums a brown and black guitar. People sit next to them with various items in between them including a silver tray with glasses and tea pots on it, a black container, and a piece of green and blue glossy paper. To the right a girl photographs the gathering on her phone.

Living abroad on behalf of solidarity protocols, a Sahrawi girl photographs a gathering, framing the Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic’s flag-adorned bracelet on her wrist, while capturing a tea set and guitar for an Instagram story. This moment showcases the active engagement of Sahrawi youth in the national project of liberation, uniting them to older generations in the pursuit of freedom and self-determination, connecting the refugee camps and the diaspora. Taken in Extremadura, Spain, 2020

Negotiating Space

by Asiyah Kurtz

A woman in colorful, rainbow Aztec-inspired clothing and feather headdress dances in the center of the photo. The headdress is made of black-brown feathers at the center that become white with black stripes as it goes out. Two people frame her on either side of the image. To the left someone with tattooed arms holds a bunch of blue feathers. To the right is an arm covered in white feathers. The background features a white paneled door.

Dancers at a bilingual celebration of the spring equinox, as photographed by applied anthropologist and arts executive Asiyah Kurtz.

Rendezvous with Time

by Artun Cesmeli

In this black and white photo, a small boy wearing a t-shirt and pants held up by overalls stands in front of several pigeons. In the background, a town square can be seen that features a clock tower framed by three palm trees. A building and several people can be seen in the distance.

A child playing with pigeons in Konak, Izmir, Turkey. Bounded only by youthful glee, the child seemingly trots through this flock of pigeons in front of the clock tower, which is a symbol of the city and a rendezvous point for many. The tower was built in 1901 by Raymond Charles Péré, a French architect, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdulhamit’s reign – the 27th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Rendezvous, this time brought the child and the pigeons together. While the clock has been counting time for over a century, time seems to be frozen out of respect for the peaceful moment the child is enjoying with the pigeons.

Haitian Hope

by Elsie Oh

A young girl wearing a black and white school uniform sits in a dark classroom at school with only a small amount of light coming through the window. She is sitting propped up on one arm at a brown wooden desk and stares at the camera as she holds a pencil on the notebook with the other hand. The blackboard is in front of her desk. There are two big ribbons in her hair and her pink backpack hangs on the back of her chair. A few tables and chairs can be seen in the blurry background.

I took this photo when I visited Cap-Haïtien, Haïti in 2018. I visited one local school to observe a class by invitation of one French NGO based in Cap-Haïtien. However, only two girls attended the class that day, and I took this photo when one of the girls was waiting for her teacher. I was volunteering in the Haïtien refugee camp in the Dominican Republic at that time, and I visited here to see what the Haïtien school teaches. Unfortunately, I could not see much of anything since there were no students.


by Morgan Jenatton

A baker wearing a grey-blue t-shirt and pants with his long brown hair in a bun puts bread in a large brick oven with a long thin paddle. The mouth of the oven is composed of an intricate forged steel mechanism. A bare light bulb hanging at the mouth allows him to see inside, and positioned behind his head creates a halo effect. The wooden paddle he uses becomes an extension of the gesture of his arm, aligned in the photo with the tilt of his gaze as he deftly places individual loaves in the raging hot oven. He is surrounded by bread in the foreground as well as the background of the photo.

November 2022, Southern Ardèche, France. Over the past 20 years, France has experienced a significant upsurge in interest in certain bygone practices of bread production, which stand notably in contrast to an industrial model that came to dominate in the post-war era and materialized in the nation-wide diffusion of the Parisian baguette. Here, a previously conventional baker has marked a profound rupture with his classic background and training to produce a wholly different kind of bread, made with locally grown and milled flours, living sourdough, and a wood-fired brick oven that he reconstructed from a bakery in a nearby town, abandoned thirty years earlier. This change in practice marks an ontological shift in the relationship to the materiality of bread and requires a process of (re)learning new approaches and techniques. An assemblage of objects, gestures, and climatic conditions enter into an embodied and fleet-footed dance, in which the photographer unwittingly takes part, reflected in the fluid blur of the image as all these elements whirl around the oven in the production of this profoundly emblematic staple food.

Hands of Resilience and Choice: Mending Nets on Sands of Change

by Raquel Maria Mendes Pereira

The close-up and top-down shot of the scene shows in detail the dexterity, skill and concentration of a Pagi fisherman mending a net while sitting on the golden sands of the Agonda beach in South Goa. He is wearing a stained tan hat, which covers his face, an orange bracelet, purple plaid shirt and khaki pants. His fingers deftly work through the white and tan threads, weaving and tying them together, while his bare foot holds one of the ropes that supports the web of threads. White, tan, and blue thread and netting lays next to him as he works.

This photo was taken during my PhD field research. The close-up provides a detailed view of one of my interlocutors, a Pagi fisherman, skillfully and attentively mending a net while seated on the golden sands of Agonda beach in South Goa. While factory-made nets are more common, the traditional craft of net mending persists due to economic constraints and personal preferences, influencing community relationships and reflecting social status dynamics.

Fishing nets are increasingly being manufactured in factories, reducing the demand for this intricate skill. However, the craft has not disappeared completely. For those with limited financial means, repairing nets offers a cost-efficient option and a potential source of alternative income when providing these services to others. While factory-made nets are more common, the traditional craft of net mending persists due to economic constraints and personal preferences, influencing community relationships and reflecting social status dynamics.

Smartphone Puja

by Brent Horning

The center of a photo is dominated by a lit up Hindu shrine featuring a female Goddess statue with long black hair, four arms, and a white, red and gold dress. She is seated on a lion figure and holds various weapons, there is intricate white detailing in the back. Beside the shrine the walls feature detailed décor which is under darker lights with red and blue glowing lights highlighting it. A group of people can be seen below worshiping and taking photos of the shrine on their smartphones. The lighting highlights the shrine with the people being shown under a shadow.Durga Puja in West Bengal, India, is a recently UNESCO-inscribed Hindu festival. This massive Goddess worshipping celebration is moving towards secularization with increasing emphasis on art and culture rather than religion. Highly skilled artisans craft Goddess statues sought after for photos, which can be considered a sort of neo-worship (puja) as technology meets ancient tradition. As photo documentation for my UC Santa Cruz Anthropology BA honors thesis, “Globalization of the Gaze: Divine and Secular Seeing in the Durga Puja Festival of Kolkata,” this photo was taken on October 22, 2022. The research examined intersectional gazes of insiders, outsider, Eastern, Western, human, divine, and technological.

Woman Entrepreneur

by Lynda Anne Williams

A woman sits to the left side of the photo with grey hair pulled back and tanned skin and she looks down at her needle work. She is wearing gold hoops, a purple checkered apron, and a white and maroon patterned outfit. She is sitting next to a frying pan with ingredients inside it and an open window that features blue, yellow and red colors.

This woman earns her living creating crafts for sale and cooking food for tourists at the same time. She lives in Juanitzio, Michoacán, Mexico.

Living Through the In-Between

by Rachel Tough (Collaborator: Hoang Nguyen Le Thai)

This landscape format photo shows a large, four-paneled propaganda sign overlooking a busy Ho Chi Minh City intersection through which taxis and scooters stream. The traffic appears blurred but the billboard and a lone scooter driver in an orange rain poncho appear sharp and crisp. The sky is cloudy. The billboard envelops a street corner building. The Vietnamese text urges safe adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued push for economic growth. Two of the panels feature a digital image of the city's planned metro train in front of the city skyline. The other panels depict newly built highways.

State propaganda in Phu Nhuan district, Ho Chi Minh City, October 2022. This billboard ad evokes the ongoing march to full socialism in Vietnam and the important role of urban development in it. Until full socialism, Vietnamese society remains suspended, theoretically, in a state of revolution. The sign also addresses modernity – symbolized by the metro train and skyscrapers – and the tumult of COVID-19, both further layers of uncertainty in life in the post-pandemic city. The image relates to anthropology’s interest in conceptualizing ‘in between’ situations using the concept of liminality. Photo taken during long-term ethnographic fieldwork on the social dynamics of COVID-19 in Vietnam.

The Grand Entry, at the Gathering of Nations 2022

by Chandler Zausner

A range of colorful indigenous regalia is worn by an intertribal group of men and women hopping rhythmically from right to left in profile. Colorful shawls with geometric embroidery and beaded headpieces, necklaces, and earrings give the women a dignified look. They seem serious and proud. The men are adorned with feathers in a range of styles and face painting, including a central figure with a bright yellow face topped with a red fringed and black feathered headdress. Some are wearing face masks that indicate caution at this early post-Covid event. The Eagle Staff that leads this procession can be seen in the distance.The Grand Entry, at the Gathering of Nations 2022 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, illustrates a range of tribal aesthetic and materiality across a wide geographical and cultural landscape. The interplay of 3,000 dancers in full regalia celebrates a wide range of performative expressions and the exuberant communal acceptance shared across nearly six hundred tribes and tens of thousands of supportive observers. For the past 40 years, Gathering of Nations, the largest pow wow in North America, has celebrated Native American culture and heritage as seventy thousand spectators converge on Albuquerque, New Mexico to celebrate over three thousand dancers, drummers, and singers, representing nearly six hundred indigenous tribes. My fieldwork at this site centered informant interviews, primarily individual stories of generational learning, including challenges of cultural continuity and efforts of revival.