"What is Culture?" Photo Contest 

This annual contest promotes cross-cultural awareness and international study and/or travel. The International Programs Office is now accepting applications for the 2014 "What is Culture?" contest. Submit applications by October 27.
Downloadable Application and Instructions

2013 Finalists

First PlaceFirst Place: Brad Tilka

“Mothered by the streets”

During my junior year of high school (November 2010), I volunteered with a group of photographers for International Justice Mission (IJM) to create an exhibit to raise awareness for child trafficking in Cebu City, Philippines. We walked through the streets of the Carbon Market—one of the city’s oldest and more impoverished areas—photographing the children who lived there. The area is home to many “street-kids” without homes or families.

While walking, I noticed this young girl feeding a child. She looked rather young to be caring for another child—even to care for herself. Squatting nearby was an older woman (possibly a close relative) smoking a cigarette. She would look over her shoulder at the two kids infrequently, expressing overall disinterest.

Second PlaceSecond Place: Olivia Paige

“Mango Snack”

This past summer I traveled to The Dominican Republic where I lived in a small village surrounded by sugarcane fields.  The little girl featured in this photo is named Mika.  Mika lived close by and would often greet me by affectionately grasping my hand with her sticky mango-covered fingers.  Mika, like most of the families in her village, faced crippling poverty and malnutrition.  When rice was scarce, Mika’s mother would send her older brother to bring home mangos that grew a short walk from the village.  It was not uncommon for little Mika to be seen snacking on a mango with the juice dripping down her smiling face.  Mika would always share her mango with her neighbor, another little girl who went hungry more often than Mika.  To me, the mango in this photo is symbolic of the hope that continues to grow in her village.

Third PlaceThird Place: Reed Pagett


This photograph is titled Reality because I have often experienced a phenomenon when traveling to and from Haiti. This phenomenon is a feeling that when I am there I am in reality, and when I return to the states, I am somehow in this unreal world. I feel this happens because we are blessed with privileges as citizens of the U.S. that others in the world could not even dream of. This photo is of a boy named Gabbie; he is a dear friend of mine, and he is holding a newly born puppy. Although it may seem to be a planned photograph, it really was just by chance that I caught such a stoic and meaningful shot. I feel that it shows all the difficulties my friend has had to endure just by growing up in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, but I feel like it also shows the strength and courage that Gabbie has for life. This photo is a symbol of what the true reality is for the majority of the people in the world.