The annual SIT Photo Contest is a chance for SIT Graduate Institute and SIT Study Abroad students and alumni to submit photos that capture SIT’s mission and values. In the 2014 contest, nearly 200 students and alumni submitted over 600 photographs.
A select group of SIT staff chose their three favorites (staff pick category), and then we let the SIT student and alumni community vote to choose three more winners from a select group of finalists (viewers’ choice category).
See the winning photos below, and hear the stories behind these photographs in the photographers’ own words.
1st Place, Staff Pick – Alexander Voynow, IHP/Comparative: Human Rights: Foundations, Challenges, and Advocacy
Both of these pictures were taken on the same day, at the same event. Within our first week in Kathmandu, we were lucky enough to experience the Indra Jatra festival, a commemoration of Indra, king of the heavens and god of rain in the Hindu religion. The main festivities take place at Basantapur Durbar Square, in the center of the city. After ineptly navigating the labyrinth that is Kathmandu, we eventually fell into the stream of locals heading towards the square. Once we happened upon it, we did some exploring, ducking through a low doorway into a beautiful palace courtyard over which loomed the Basantapur tower. In there, a few dozen Nepali people were milling around and enjoying a break from the rush of people and activity beyond the palace walls. Josie, the only one looking at the camera, sat amongst these various clumps of festival goers (bottom photograph). After being shooed out of the palace by the Nepali police force preparing for their festival demonstration, we joined the sea of people filling the square in front of the palace facade. The stairs of temples popping out of the square offered a raised view of the festival’s proceedings, and were teeming with people. So densely packed, they looked like a living layer of the temples they were perched upon (top photograph).
1st Place, Viewers’ Choice – Sarah Glass, IHP/Comparative: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care
This photograph was taken in Bahraich, India at a Sufi Shrine called Bahraich Dargah (“Dargah” means mausoleum or tomb). The shrine was built in the 14th century to commemorate Muslim warrior Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masood, who was killed in battle with a Hindu kshatriya confederacy. Pilgrims come to the Bahraich Dargah seeking healing, and stay for days or weeks at a time. An annual festival called Dargah Mela draws hundreds of thousands of people across faiths to the shrine in celebration.
The man in this photograph is a Sufi priest who prays for those who come to Dargah. Shortly after we began exploring he took lead and showed us around the shrine. At one point I wandered off a bit, and he approached me and motioned for me to follow him down a set of steps. The steps led to a well full of water, flowers, ribbons, and cloth. I was stunned. I pointed to my camera and he nodded (my classmates yelled my name from above, telling me to catch up), and I snapped the picture.
2nd Place, Staff Pick – Will Matsuda, SIT Study Abroad Morocco: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media
Aziz Mohammad, 66, has owned his bookshop in Rabat, Morocco for over 50 years. He has handpicked thousands of titles from different neighborhoods around Rabat. At all hours of the day, Mohammad sits in his closet-like shop and reads the Koran. Mohammad’s collection is vast. He carries texts in Arabic, French, and with a little bit of digging, Soviet mechanical engineering books from the 1940s can be found hiding in the stacks. Mohammad leaves his post three times throughout his day to pray at the nearby mosque. He does not close his shop. “There are robbers, but the good god guards it,” he said. Keeping track of his cavernous collection is no problem for Mohammad. He knows every single title. “It is written in my memory.”
Learn more about Mohammad in an article that Matsuda helped produce.
2nd Place, Viewers’ Choice – Marika Azoff, SIT Study Abroad Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology
This picture was taken in the Ngorongoro Crater, a gigantic, volcanic crater with an area of about 300km squared. The crater is home to a wide array of species, including the critically endangered Black Rhino. Right before I took this picture, I was visiting a pride of lions that decided to take shade under our safari vehicles and occasionally scratch themselves on the spare tires attached to the back of the cars. As we drove away from that breathtaking experience, these zebras decided that they probably didn’t want to linger around the resting pride much longer and ran across the dirt road to a less dangerous grazing site. Ngorongoro Crater was definitely one of my favorite places in Northern Tanzania. Driving through the diverse habitats while surrounded by huge crater walls made me feel like I was inside of a giant, tranquil snow globe full of unbelievably beautiful creatures and landscapes.
3rd Place, Staff Picks – Nawal Jameel, SIT Graduate Institute
In this photo, I am wearing the traditional dress in my state, Dhofar-Oman. Women in Dhofar wear this dress during special occasions like Eid Al Fiter or Eid Al Adhaha. Each state in Oman has its own traditional dress and this dress is specifically for women in South Oman. This photo was taking during International Fashion Night at SIT by my friend Xaisongkham Induangchanthy.
3rd Place, Viewers’ Choice – Lauren Vunderink, SIT Study Abroad China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities
A young boy looking up during worship at Shuncheng Jie, a prominent Hui minority mosque in Kunming, Yunnan, caught my attention. The SIT China program focuses on exposing students to the vast diversity of the people of China through immersive experiences. Five days after we had the privilege of observing this prayer and discussing Islam in China with the mosque’s Imam, the Kunming Train Station was attacked by Uyghur Muslims from Xinjiang Province, according to both domestic and international news sources, killing 26 people and wounding more than 140. The situation in Xinjiang is complex, but this photo represents the hope of China’s younger generation for peace and progress, sentiments I heard from my college-aged friends, even as prejudice continues to strongly inform the older generation’s perspective. I learned an incredible amount from this study abroad experience, and am very grateful to all the program staff who made it possible.