Vibrant color – in the garments of a Senegalese woman and in the couscous she was sifting – caught the eye and camera of Xavier Al-Mateen from Lawrence University.
For Beloit College student Sarah Morgan, a portrait she took of her host father in Mongolia revealed what she called “a collision of two worlds.”
While studying biology in Australia, Marlena Hartman-Filson from Carleton College snapped a picture of a tree frog that succinctly illustrates the complexity of interactions between humans and nature.
These photos, taken by students from ACM colleges during their off-campus studies, capture moments of beauty and insight and tell us stories about the students’ engagement with people, other cultures, and their surroundings.
For the past five years, ACM has invited students to share their images in the annual Off-Campus Study Photo Contest. With 95 entries, taken by students on off-campus programs in countries ranging from Ecuador to Hungary to India, the 2012-13 contest has gathered a compelling array of photos.
The contest highlights the importance that ACM colleges place on the diverse perspectives, intercultural understanding, and personal growth fostered by off-campus study, as well as the colleges’ five decades of collaboration in offering consortial programs, both international and domestic.
The liberal arts approach of ACM’s off-campus study programs informs the contest, as the judging generally favors photos, and their accompanying descriptions, that demonstrate cross-cultural learning as well as with visual artistry.
A panel of judges awarded a Grand Prize, winners in three categories – People, Stories, and Artistry – and ten Honorable Mentions. In addition, more than 500 people visited the ACM Facebook page to cast their votes for the Fans’ Choice Awards.
It was a glimpse into daily life that captured the Grand Prize for Al-Mateen, who studied in Dakar, Senegal this past spring on Lawrence’s Francophone Seminar. He snapped the photo, titled “Couscous,” while his female classmates took lessons on making food and clothing from members of a women’s cooperative.
“Artistically, the framing and composition, the light and dark, and the use of color are wonderful,” said Jason Pallas, a Chicago-based artist and educator who serves as Adjunct Arts Faculty with the ACM Chicago Program and was one of the judges for the contest. “The photographer uses the bright sunlight to draw the viewer’s eye into the photo, and to focus on one of the women at work.”
“This is a world in which women do particular kinds of work and relate to each other,” Pallas noted. “There is a hidden story within this picture, as well, of a male student being sensitive and aware of gaining a look into this female world.”
Morgan, who won 1st Place in the People category for her photo “Herder Pride,” told of her surprise at a choice made by her Mongolian host father, who has followed generations of his ancestors in breeding and herding goats and sheep.
“I raised my camera to take a picture of my host father with his herd,” Morgan wrote. “‘No,’ he told me in Mongolian, ‘over here.’ He wanted to appear in my photograph sitting astride his shiny new motorcycle, a jarring intrusion of modernity into the pastoral landscape.”
Other top prizes included:
- 1st Place for Stories – “Anna’s First Ganesh Festival,” in which Lawrence University student Cori Lin caught the exuberance of a festival procession in the streets of Pune, India.
- 1st Place for Artistry – A moment of a child’s simple joy in “Magyar fiú – Hungarian Boy,” taken in Budapest by Stephanie Kravitz from Carleton College.
Emma Crumley, from St. Olaf College, took home three prizes for photos she took in Ecuador while participating in a January 2012 Interim course sponsored by her college’s Spanish department.
“Dos Mundos – Two Worlds,” her intriguing view of a skate park in Quito, collared the most votes on ACM’s Facebook page to win 1st Place in the Fans’ Choice Awards. The photo was also honored by the contest’s judges with 3rd Place in the Artistry category.
A picture of a fellow student seeking a bit of shade on a blistering hot day, titled “Cardboard Canopy,” garnered Crumley a 2nd Place award in the People category.
The students’ photos show how images can illuminate studies throughout the curriculum. For example, Hartman-Filson’s image of a tree frog nestled serenely in an undulating sea of plastic – titled “Intersections” and awarded 3rd Place for Stories – framed her reflections on larger environmental issues that she and her classmates were studying.
“It became clear that in order for the survival of either [native flora and fauna or humans], adaptations necessarily came from both sides,” she noted. “This tree frog hides from predators in the folds of a plastic fence used as a goat enclosure. Sightings of such unexpected creatures as tree frogs, koalas, kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles in the midst of human habitation served as reminders of Western settlers’ short history in the country and the environment’s fragile future.”
A traveling exhibit of the prize-winning, Fans’ Choice, and Honorable Mention photos – 22 images in all – will be hosted by ACM campuses in winter and spring 2013. All of the photos entered in the 2012-13 ACM Photo Contest are available for viewing online at the ACM Facebook page.