Anthropology Day Photo Contest Winners!

David Beriss

We are ready to reveal the big winners for the first ever SAFN Anthropology Day Photo contest.

Before I make the big announcement, I want to point out the criteria we used to evaluate the submissions. These were:

  • the ethnographic nature of the pictures, overall.
  • the contribution of the photo(s) as insight into foodways.
  • the extent to which the photos help us see the work and lives of people in food.
  • the overall composition, originality, etc.

We assembled a committee of SAFN members whose collective wisdom and experience using and viewing photos would enable us to overcome the inherent subjectivity of these criteria. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, who not only viewed the pictures but, in many cases, submitted excellent aesthetic and anthropological evaluations of them. The reviewing committee was made up of Jennifer Jo Thompson, Scott Alves Barton, Ryan Adams, Jesse Dart, Wendy Yared, and me.

Consensus was elusive. The winners all received the most votes, but there were photos favored by at least one of our judges among nearly all the submissions. This reflects, I think, the quality of the photos. It is also why we have so many winners.

The overall winner of the 2021 SAFN Anthropology Day Photo Contest is Carol Hayman, whose pictures, taken in 2017 and 2018, show us various markets in Guatemala. Committee members remarked on the beauty of the colors and compositions, the interaction of people with each other and with food. The first one below was called “a classic” by one judge. All evoke the movement and life of markets.

Chichicastenango Indoor Market, May 2018 – Carol Hayman
Chichicastenango Indoor Market, May 2018 – Carol Hayman
Antigua Market, August 2017 – Carol Hayman
Antigua Market, August 2017 – Carol Hayman

Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam came in second, with pictures from fieldwork in Cambodia. They wrote that the pictures are part of a series “entitled ‘A montage of the meshings of medicines and mealtimes in Siem Reap, Cambodia’ which include portraits and scenes of traditional Khmer-food medicines and their sellers that I took during my PhD fieldwork from February 2020 to July 2020 as a research fellow for the Center for Khmer Studies.” We have included a selection here. Some judges were particularly enthusiastic about the “triptych of traditional medicinal wines for maternity and men’s vitality,” which just calls out for deeper explanation.

An elderly Cambodian woman with a shaved head sits on a raised dark wood platform, next to a pile of plastic packages filled with Traditional Khmer medicine woody plant materials. She is looking into the camera and smiling slightly. She wears a white sleeveless shirt which is dotted with light red floral patterning, a sarong which is also floral and multicolored in design, a light golden chain around her neck, and a red thread bracelet on her left wrist. In the background is as a red hammock to her right side, where the hand of her granddaughter is poking out; to her left are a series of wooden shelves covered in earthy pots and are covered by a tin roof.
Story-time with the village Soul Caller, photo Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam 
A khmer woman with long dark hair tied back behind her neck holds a plastic bag full of Traditional Khmer Medicine woody plant parts over a woven basket. She wears a scooping neck shirt decorated with large orange flowers.  To her left are a cascade of woven baskets full of other Traditional Khmer medicine woody plant parts. In the background, is a shack covered in various blue and green tarps which are layered upon one another as a roof. Faintly on her right side in the distance, there is a man wearing a white shirt, white pants, and glasses sitting on a stool in the shack.
The traditional medicine merchant, photo Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam 
Various large wooden woven plates sit on a merchant table overflowing with traditional Khmer dried fish called trey gneat in a cascading orientation. The dried fish, depending on their size, are either stacked in high piles or meticulously fanned out in a circular pattern to showcase the browns, dark pinks, and oranges of their coloring. Some of the fish are noticeably seasoned with chili flakes. In the background are plastic and glass jars full of other dried foods such as shrimp or other varieties of trey gneat not displayed on the table.
The healing heat of salt: Trey ngeat (Khmer traditional died fish) in the marketplace, photo Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam.
Tree large glass jars sit on a wooden table, each is filled with plant materials soaked in alcohol and reflect different colored hues. The left jar is yellow-green with long roots coiled inside, the center jar is pinkish red with floating white chunks, and the right is a cloudy white and filled with amber twigs. On the table there are also some short glasses and plastic bottles filled with amber colored fluid.
Sraa Saaw: A triptych of traditional medicinal wines for maternity and men’s vitality, photo Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam.

Amanda Hilton’s photos from Sicily attracted quite a lot of praise, putting her in third place. She submitted 4 photos, not as a series, but as individual pictures. Nevertheless, they each have enough distinctive merit to be included here. Her saffron photo (see below) was a favorite as a composition.

“Jumping out of the pan.” At the fish market in Catania, Sicily, Italy. April 2018. Photo by Amanda Hilton.
 “Nanà at the olive harvest.” Partinico, Sicily, Italy. October 2017. Photo by Amanda Hilton.
Frutta martorana per i morti, marzipan fruit for the Day of the Dead.” Palermo, Sicily, Italy. November 2017. Photo by Amanda Hilton.
“Giovanna with saffron.” Province of Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. November 2019. Photo by Amanda Hilton.

Finally, there were at least three photos that attracted enough praise to merit runner-up status. Suman Chakrabarty submitted a series of pictures related to a research project on food security “among the Rabha tribal community living in the northern part of West Bengal state in India under forest fringe conditions.” We have included one of those here, which was praised for composition, color, and ethnographic content. Keiko Kanno sent photos from fieldwork in Mongolia, including the photo below of an intriguing rack of sweets in a store in Ulaanbaatar. Finally, David Sutton provided us with a picture from his work in Greece, with someone handling a knife in a way that seems inadvisable, but that captures something very distinctive about food culture.

This black gram cultivated in the Forest land by the Rabha tribe in West Bengal, India and it is one of the major sources o vegetable protein for them, Photo by Suman Chakrabarty.
In Ulaanbaatar, stores almost always had promotions allowing consumers to receive discounts when they purchased more than three packs of sweet products. This was not a one-off promotion but rather a constant one, and I often saw many consumers buying three boxes of the same sweet products. Unlike in rural Mongolia, where people have small portions of food every day, urban residents seem to live in the food environment that provides easy access to greater amounts of sugary products.
A rack of sweets in Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia, Photo by Keiko Kanno. 
Alexandra Passa cutting bread in her kitchen on the island of Kalymnos, Greece. This is the typical way of slicing bread in Greece, with the loaf leaning against the chest, using a sawing motion toward the body. It is part of what I describe as the “everyday risk” of cooking that is embraced by Greeks as part of giving meaning to daily life. I explore these ideas in my forthcoming book, Bigger Fish to Fry (Berghahn Press). [Photo by Dimitris Roditis, 1/8/21. Reproduced with permission]

I am very grateful to all of the participants in this year’s competition. I would encourage the winners and, frankly, even those we have not mentioned here, to consider writing for the blog, perhaps in a way that further explains what is in your pictures. Let’s do this again next year! Celebrate anthropology!

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