Congratulations to Ilan Wittenberg on winning the Editorial category of the 2020 SONY Alpha awards. The Awards bring together the greatest images from across Australia and New Zealand, aiming to drive creativity, reward professionals and enthusiasts alike and provide a platform to showcase the very best Photography work. Here is Ilan’s artist statement:

‘Timid’ is part of a collection of captivating portraits of the Maasai people from Tanzania. I found myself deeply inspired upon meeting the Maasai tribe and realised the opportunity to document their unique culture which is being eroded by Western influence and modern technology. On a personal level, this reminds me of the true value of photography: preserving memories in order to relive special stories and pass them on to others. Through this series of carefully composed photographs, the Maasai people can share their rich culture with the world.

The collection is presented in a film-noir monochrome, capturing these portraits in a classically timeless style; lending a unifying appearance that emulates analogue lithographic techniques. I wanted viewers to focus on the humanity aspect of each portrait: expression, body language, shape and form, eliminating distracting colours to ensure that viewers focus on the people within the photos and make emotional connections with the Maasai.

This is a documentary collection; most of the photos had little or no retouching. I waited for people to look straight into the camera so we can see highlights in their eyes. The strength of the series is in giving viewers an opportunity to connect with the Maasai people in their natural environment. This diverse group of people serves as a timely reminder that despite our many cultural differences, we can unite as a community through the power of photography. I hope that through this portfolio viewers learn more about the Maasai culture. We are all wonderfully unique, yet at the same time, we are deeply the same.

I aim to depict the Maasai culture in an authentic and honest way, using a clear narrative style which shows the significance of their culture, as well as their individual personalities. My goal is to provoke viewers’ imagination regarding the traditions of the Maasai people and the stories behind their portraits. In sharing this portfolio, I encourage viewers to show tolerance: to accept all people and to recognise the value of cultural diversity. We would all experience an enhanced sense of community if we took the time to appreciate interactions which allow us to discover the world beyond our familiar boundaries.

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