First announced in 1990, the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize was created by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University to encourage collaboration between documentary writers and photographers in the tradition of the acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor. In 1941 Lange and Taylor published An American Exodus, a book that renders human experience eloquently in text and images and remains a seminal work in documentary studies.
Like Lange and Taylor, and all serious documentarians, the competitive applicants to this prize have a point of view derived from an in-depth understanding of place, history, and the current situation, in concert with a personal relationship to the proposed work. Ultimately, their commitment is to use documentary expression to motivate the thinking and reflection of others.
The Lange-Taylor Prize supports artists, working alone or in teams, who are involved in extended, ongoing fieldwork projects that rely on and exploit, in intriguing and effective ways, the interplay of words and images in the creation and presentation of their work. The idea of “writing” allows words to be represented by audio and video or used in graphic novel format. Edited oral histories, creative narratives, and poetry (that is both personal and social) are also encouraged.
The winner receives $10,000, features in Center for Documentary Studies’ print and digital publications, and inclusion in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Rubenstein Library, Duke University.
Honorable Mention to photographer Carlotta Cardana and writer Danielle SeeWalker for The Red Road Project, a collection of photographs and stories exploring the “relationship between Native American peoples and their identities today. . . . Photographs can be powerful tools for engaging an audience and telling a story, but it is only through words that one can learn a fuller story.”
Honorable Mention to photographer and filmmaker Phyllis Dooney and writer Jardine Libaire for Gravity Is Stronger Here about an “archetypal American family in Greenville, Mississippi, who—together with their openly gay daughter, Halea—dream out loud while ﬁghting recurrent domestic narratives.” The transmedia project combines video, audio, photography, and poetry “to hold space for multiple truths.”
The other finalists for the 2016 Lange-Taylor Prize were Nina Berman, Sahara Borja, Ian Brown, Patricia Corbett and Leslie Cunningham, Jess Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, Jennifer Karady, Justin Maxon, Pamela Pakker-Kozicki and Sharon Grainger, Brittany Powell, Eugene Richards, Sydelle Willow Smith and Olivia Rose Walton, and Katja Torres and Gabriela Ros.
The Center for Documentary Studies continues to make awards for documentary still photography and narrative nonfiction through the CDS Documentary Essay Prize.