Photograph of household items

Photo by Diane Barker

Student Contest

Student Photography Contest: The Artifacts in Our Lives

Document Your Place on the Planet
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Contest Details

In this contest, students will photograph an artifact and tell its story. What memories of your cultural and family heritage exist within the objects of our lives?

What stories do artifacts tell?

The artifacts in our lives are a vital part of our living history. An artifact, or a human-made object, physically exists in a place at different moments in time. It can contain historical and cultural memories. In which ways do artifacts connect us to our own history, culture, family, and place? What does the story of an artifact tell us about ourselves?

Many artifacts are passed down from generation to generation, becoming a part of our family and cultural heritage. Some examples include family photographs, medals from war, jewelry, religious items, diaries, old coins or stamps, kitchen items, clothing, or literature. Artifacts are all around us. They can be found in our homes, gardens, streets, parks, and churches, among other locations. Anything that provides more evidence about the cultural, economic, historical, religious, and social aspects of our society could be considered an artifact. Preserved in museums around the world, artifacts tell the stories of humanity’s downfalls, achievements, and innovations.

An article from the Smithsonian Institution suggests different ways to think about artifacts. They include the following:

The aim of this contest is to challenge students to examine the value of artifacts from multiple perspectives. “Imagine the artifact not in a spotlight by itself, but rather against a variegated backdrop of people, places, and events.”[1] What story emerges?

1. Steven Lubar and Kathleen Kendrick, “Looking at Artifacts, Thinking about History.” Smithsonian Education. [^]

Guidelines and Rules

  1. Contestants must be ages 13 and up in the U.S. and 16 and up globally. Check our Submission Guidelines and Rules and our Terms of Service for more details.

  2. All entries must be related to the contest theme of artifacts. Students will submit one photograph of an artifact which responds to one or more of the following questions:

    • How does the artifact capture a moment in time?
    • In what ways does the artifact connect the people in your life?
    • How does the artifact reflect change? (Cultural, historical, or social, e.g.)
  3. Photo entries must be accompanied by a short photographer’s statement (600 words max). The aim of this statement is to tell the story of the chosen artifact. Statements must respond to at least 2 of the following questions:

    • What informed your decision to take your photograph?
    • How old is the artifact? Describe the artifact’s place in time. What meaning might it have throughout history—past, present, and future?
    • How does this artifact connect to other people beyond who it belongs to? Does the artifact have a function?
    • Where was the artifact made? How was it made and who made it?
    • Where does the artifact live? Is this artifact important to you and/or your family? Has the artifact been passed down from generation to generation?
    • Does the artifact bring forth memories? If so, what memories?
    • In what ways does the artifact connect to a “set values” or beliefs?
    • Would you like to see this artifact preserved for the future? Why?
  4. Images must contain an artifact(s) and should help to express students' human relationships (to their home, family, and/or community) to this object. Students can include themselves and/or family members in their photographs. Be creative! If your photograph contains a person, you will need to fill out and return the Photo Subject Release Form.

  5. The photograph submitted must take into consideration the Global Oneness Project’s mission statement: Planting seeds of resilience, empathy, and a sacred relationship to our planet. How might the artifact you choose to document tell a bigger story about our common humanity?

  6. Each photograph and response must be original and previously unpublished. The photograph should not be a photo collage or be heavily edited (e.g. photoshopped).

  7. Eligible entries will be judged by a qualified panel consisting of professional filmmakers, photographers, and authorized personnel from the Global Oneness Project. Only one entry per contestant.

  8. Prizes. Winners will be awarded $200 USD each and photographs will be published on the Global Oneness Project website.

  9. All entries must be accompanied by this signed Parental Permission Form.

  10. All entries must be received by November 19, 2020. Winners and finalists will be announced and notified on December 3, 2020.

Enter the Photo Contest

Submit your photograph, photographer’s statement, and forms. Entries are accepted exclusively through the Submittable platform. Have any questions? Please contact Photo Contest Manager Sara Dorman at

Get Inspired!

For inspiration, consider the following photographs from our photo essays. Each photograph captures artifacts from multiple perspectives.

Family photos line the walls

Family photos line the walls in Clifford Weyiouanna's home. Shishmaref, Alaska. Photo Essay: Waiting to Move, by Ciril Jazbec

Chair in front of window seen through glass door

Chair in the former Ministry of Taxation office, soon to be redeveloped. Yangon, Myanmar. Photo Essay: Still Lifes from a Vanishing City by Elizabeth Rush

Kazuaki Tanahashi holds a red stamp

Red stamp or “chop.” Chops are the signature of the artist. Berkeley, California, United States. Photo Essay: Kazuaki Tanahashi by Unnikrishnan Raveendranathen

Calligraphy brushes

Calligraphy brushes in Kazuaki Tanahashi's studio. Berkeley, California, United States. Photo Essay: Kazuaki Tanahashi by Unnikrishnan Raveendranathen

Spinning prayer wheels

Elderly women sit in Lo Manthang to spin prayer wheels and pray together. Mustang, Nepal. Photo Essay: Mustang: Lives and Landscape of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom by Taylor Weidman

Setting paper lanterns afloat

Paper lanterns afloat at an event celebrating the birth of Buddha. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo Essay: Mongolia's Nomads by Taylor Weidman

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