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.
In 2011, in recognition of the changing environment in which documentary artists conduct their work, we decided to reframe the prize guidelines. The relaunched 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 new guidelines expand on the idea of “writing” by allowing words to be represented by audio or in graphic novel format. As in the past, edited oral histories, creative narratives, and poetry (that is both personal and social) are also encouraged.
The new guidelines also require that artists have already started their fieldwork and have collected representative samples of the project's component parts. However, please note, the guidelines no longer stipulate that a writer and a photographer collaborate on a project. Single artists or collaborative teams working with text/audio/photographs/video/graphic novel format may apply.
These changes to the award are inspired in part by the Center for Documentary Studies’ commitment to the new Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University, which brings together two forms of artistic activity—the documentary approach and experimental production in analog, digital, and computational media.
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.