CDS Documentary Essay Prize

Untitled (annual Trammel Cemetery cleanup), Tatum, Texas, 2015. Photograph by 2020 prizewinner Amanda Russhell Wallace.
Untitled (annual Trammel Cemetery cleanup), Tatum, Texas, 2015. Photograph by 2020 prizewinner Amanda Russhell Wallace.

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

Amanda Russhell Wallace is the 2020 winner of the CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography.

An Honorable Mention was awarded to Farshid Tighehsaz of Tabriz, Iran, for his essay “From Labyrinth: Living with Anonymous Apprehensions.” There were 9 other finalists for the 2020 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography: Sara Bennett, Scott Brennan, Vikesh Kapoor, Natalie Keyssar, Camilla Macciani, Yubin Oh, Arne Piepke, Tim Smith, Leslie Starobin, Bianca and riel Sturchio, and Federico Vespignani.

The 2019 prize, for writing, was awarded to Beaudelaine Pierre, a doctoral candidate in feminist studies at the University of Minnesota, for her essay “You May Have the Suitcase Now.”