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CDS Documentary Essay Prize: Writing and Photography

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years: one year, photos; one year, writing. The focus is on current or recently completed work (within the last two years) from a long-term project—fifteen images; fifteen to twenty pages of writing.


The upcoming prize competition will be for photography. The winner of the competition will receive $3,000 and will have his or her work featured in Document, a periodical published by the Center for Documentary Studies, as well as on the Center’s website. The winner’s work will also be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

Abbie Gascho Landis is the 2015 winner of the CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing. 

The winner will be announced to the public in June 2016.

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CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Honickman Foundation, based in Philadelphia, co-sponsor this prestigious biennial prize. The only prize of its kind, the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography competition is open to North American photographers of any age who have yet to publish a book-length work of their photographs. Winners of the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography receive a grant of $3,000, publication of a book of photography, and inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of the prizewinners. The winner will also be given a solo exhibit at the photography gallery at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library; the photographs are then placed in the library’s Archive of Documentary Arts
Submissions for the 2016 First Book Prize will be accepted from June 15 to September 15, 2016.
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CDS Filmmaker Award

This $7,500 prize recognizes documentary films that combine originality and creativity with firsthand experience in examining central issues of contemporary life and culture. In keeping with the Center for Documentary Studies mission, the award was created to honor and support documentary artists whose works are potential catalysts for education and change. The award winners are selected from among films in competition at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, held each spring in Durham, North Carolina.

Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami is the 2016 winner of the CDS Filmmaker Award for Sonita.

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Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize

The Lange-Taylor Prize supports documentary artists who are involved in extended, on-going fieldwork projects that rely on and exploit the interplay of words and images in the creation and presentation of their work. The winner receives $10,000, feature stories in Center for Documentary Studies’ print and digital publications, and inclusion of their work in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

Michel Huneault is the 2015 winner of the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize

Submissions for the 2016 Lange–Taylor Prize will be accepted from February 1 to May 9, 2016. Deadline now extended to May 16!

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John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards

The John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards were established in 1990 by the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS). The Center for Documentary Studies makes these awards, of up to $2,000, to undergraduates at four local universities ((Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University) to help them conduct summer-long documentary fieldwork projects involving oral history, photography, film/video, nonfiction or creative writing, and/or audio.
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Julia Harper Day Award

The Julia Harper Day Award for Documentary Studies was created in 1992 by the Center for Documentary Studies in memory of the young woman who was the Center’s first staff member and who, herself, was a photographer and writer of real accomplishment. This award of $500 recognizes a graduating Duke University senior who has demonstrated excellence in documentary studies and has significantly contributed to CDS programs.

Katie Jane Fernelius is the 2016 winner of the Julia Harper Day Award. 

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Daylight/CDS Photo Awards

Daylight and the Center for Documentary Studies cosponsored an international competition, the Daylight/CDS Photo Awards, in 2010 and 2011 to honor and promote both emerging and established photographers in two prize categories—a Project Prize and a Work-in-Process Prize.
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Image above: Pilcene (detail). Photograph by Iveta Voivode, winner of the 2014 Documentary Essay Prize in Photography.

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