1997 — student award of excellence
Ryan Anson is a freelance photojournalist based in San Francisco. Many of his photographs have captured social, political and religious life in the Philippines over the last decade. Anson has also worked in 20 other countries in Africa, Asia, and Central America. A recipient of several prestigious journalism grants and fellowships, including from the International Reporting Project (2005) and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (2007 and 2008), Anson has published stories in a variety of magazines and newspapers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, TIME-Asia, The Saturday Times Magazine (Times of London,) Smithsonian Magazine, Newsbreak, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is a frequent contributing photographer for the wire services Bloomberg News and Agence France Press and has collaborated with Redux Pictures on a number of stories.
Combining his social justice convictions with documentary photography, Anson has helped to produce several visual advocacy projects for international and Philippines-based non-governmental organizations such as Community and Family Services International, Compassion Canada, International Alliance for Peacebuilding (Interpeace), Shangilia Mtoto wa Afrika, and the United Nations Development Program. In 2000, the Southern Philippines Foundation for the Arts, Culture and Ecology gave Anson a grant to photograph reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts in war-torn Mindanao. This body of work was exhibited in 2002 at the world's premier photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France, and later published in the book "Mindanao on the Mend." In 2004, he published an investigative book with Tambayan Center entitled "In the Shadows of Davao," a series of stories about girl gangs in the southern Philippine city of Davao.
Anson is currently developing a multimedia project that features his many years of work photographing Southeast Asia's diverse Muslim minority communities.
A Toyota pick-up speeds past an elder walking on a dirt track on the floor of the Rift Valley, showering him in dust and blanketing the nearby herds of dozing sheep. Packed in the rear of the matatu sit a mosaic of young and old Maasai, some adorned in magnificently-colored beads and kangas while others in the cool, dark colors of Western attire. This local taxi, on its way back to Oloirowua from the nearby industrial center of Nairobi, dodges bicycles as it roars its way to various bomas (family homes), dropping customers off along the side of the road and quickly moving on to beat the sunset.
Throughout Kenya, even in the removed rural areas of Maasailand, the movement of life is hurrying to catch up to the rhythm of modernity. Traditional pastoralist societies, such as the Maasai, have for a long time tenaciously held on to their customs and rituals as the rest of the state continues towards its goal of national development. However, the globalized forces of individual self-interest and free enterprise are strengthening, while ancient bonds of family, kinship, and custom are weakening.
Great changes impinge on even the most resistant of Maasai communities. Change may be subtle, like the adoption of Western names or clothes. Change may be imposed, such as the introduction and proliferation of Christianity. Or change may arise out of necessity whereby a pastoralist society integrates agricultural modes of production to supplement diets and income.
While change seems inevitable and corrosive, the Maasai preserve their sense of identity and cultural orientation. Their world view is expressed through the continued use of the Maa language, annual or seasonal ceremonies commemorating a rite of passage, and the retention of the sophisticated age-set system. More importantly, cattle is still at the very center of their communtiy-centered, pastoral way of life. This can not be compromised by enterprise or modern institutions.
Yet the Maasai have developed coping mechanisms to adapt to a changing world. Promotion of education is perhaps the most critical of these steps to co-exist with and contribute to a developing state. Although more and more children attend primary schools, most who live locally return to their homes in the evening to herd in the family's livestock or listen to a grandmother's story inside the traditional enkang (home).
This picture story emphasizes the contention between custom and change in two Maasai communities: Oloirowua and Talek. It shows the impact of the new on the foundations of the old and how the local Maasai are making an effort to adjust to transforming realities. Most importantly, it seeks to illuminate how both realities can exist together in the same space and among the same people.