Every photographer faces a set of moral and political choices about how to use their camera and how to represent the people they depict. No camera is a passive bystander, simply and passively recording some external reality; cameras have the point of view of their owners. Is the camera a weapon, reducing the powerful to mere mortality (like Richard Avedon) or making the familiar strange and grotesque (like Diane Arbus)? Rachel makes a choice to go the other way, in the tradition more of Dorothea Lange or Eve Arnold, reminding us of the simple dignity and even breathtaking beauty of the people over whom the economic machine runs in the march towards profits. Her photographs of Maasai women or Guatemalan peasant women reveal a resilience and grace that is poetic in its simple beauty. There is a marked gender difference in the photographs. The women relate to the camera, smile or stare directly into it, proud, tall, and engaged. The men seem far sadder; they look away from the camera, down, to the side, refusing to engage with the lens. Perhaps the toll is greater on them, since the penetration of the global market into traditional life not only displaces them from their land but also upends their traditional domestic privileges. The women may hold up half the sky, but they also seem to have their feet more firmly planted on the ground.
Stony Brook University
Entries for the 2012 competition must be received by April 20, 2012. Winners will be notified by June 5, 2012. Up to three cash prizes will be awarded at the Second ISA Forum of Sociology: Social Justice and Democratization, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August 2012. Attendance at the Forum is not a requirement. The first prize will be $2,500 USD, the second $1,500, and the third $500. The prize will be awarded biennially.