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 writing. The winner of the competition receives $3,000 and and feature stories in Center for Documentary Studies’ print and digital publications. The winner’s work is also placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

The 2016 prize, for photography, was given to Jessica Eve Rattner for “House of Charm,” a ten-year portrait of Lee, Rattner’s eighty-year-old neighbor in Berkeley, California. The essay explores, with delicacy and respect, Lee’s story of aging alone and questions cultural ideas around beauty, happiness, and mental health.

The 2015 prize, for writing, was awarded to Abbie Gascho Landis, a writer and veterinarian in Cobleskill, New York. In her essay, “Immersion,” Landis weaves personal experience into her investigation of native mussels and their freshwater habitats as one way of looking at water issues in the Deep South and elsewhere in the United States.

Submissions for the 2017 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing will be accepted from November 1, 2016, to February 15, 2017.

See How to Enter and FAQ’s

The winner will be publicly announced in June 2017.

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Jessica Eve Rattner is the 2016 winner of the CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography. 

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Ofir Barak for “Mea Shearim,” a portrait of the fifth settlement outside the walls of the Old City of Jersualem, and Soohyun Kim for “Guryong Village in Seoul,” an exploration of a “shantytown” situated in Seoul, Korea’s wealthiest district.

There were 9 other finalists for the 2016 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography, selected from nearly 220 entries:

Jeremiah Ariaz, “Trail Riders”
Juan Arredondo, “Born into Conflict”
Jacobia Dahm, “Journey Through the Balkans”
Ayala Gazit, “ Was It a Dream”
Olga Ingurazova, “Wolf Story”
Michael Vince Kim, “The Koreans of Kazakhstan”
Cassandra Klos, “Mars on Earth”
Jiehao Su, “Borderland”
Ka-Man Tse, “Narrow Distances”

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