CDS Documentary Essay Prize

Photograph from “Point d’eau” by Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres, winner of the 2018 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography. Refugee man’s shower sandals, Grande-Synthe, 2018. The 50-150 refugees living outside in the forest have no access to safe water and sanitation.
Photograph from “Point d’eau” by Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres, winner of the 2018 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography. Refugee man’s shower sandals, Grande-Synthe, 2018. The 50-150 refugees living outside in the forest have no access to safe water and sanitation.

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in short-form 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 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. (Scroll down for more information about the 2019 prize.)

The 2018 prize, for photography, was awarded to Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres for “Point d’eau.” For seven months last year, Kantorowicz Torres, a freelance photographer based in Colombia and France, covered the response of the French government, NGOs, and ordinary citizens to questions of access to safe drinking water and sanitation services for refugees in northern France. Her essay gives a rare vantage on the lives of these refugees, and quietly reveals the “hospitality and solidarity of citizens in response to the government’s restrictions on water access” by making portraits not of people but of place.

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Jošt Franko for “Shepherds,” a creative exploration of the shepherd community of Velika planina, a plateau in the Slovenian Alps, and Paweł Starzec for “Makeshift,” about “rewriting history in Bosnia and Herzegovina” by investigating the sites of mass atrocities and their present state of “erased context.”

There were 10 other finalists for the 2018 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography, selected from 155 entries:

Inbal Abergil, “N.O.K.—Next of Kin”
Elena Anosova, “Out-of-the-Way”
Jenna Houston, “All That Glitters”
Barbara Karant, “820 Ebony/Jet”
Selim Korycki, “The Waning Crescent”
Matjaz Krivic, “Lithium”
Mikael Owunna, “One Year with Depression”
Adair Rutledge, “Azalea Trail Maids”
Federico Vespignani, “La Distancia”
Christian Werner, “A Journey Through Assad’s Syria”

Submissions for the 2019 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing will be accepted from November 1, 2018, to February 15, 2019. The winner will be publicly announced in June 2019.

See How to Enter and FAQ’s