CDS Documentary Essay Prize

2019 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing winner Beaudelaine Pierre’s red suitcase
2019 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing winner Beaudelaine Pierre’s red suitcase.

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 photography. 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.

Submissions for the 2019 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography will be accepted from December 1, 2019, to March 1, 2020. The winner will be publicly announced in June 2020. See How to Enter and FAQs.

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.”

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Sini Nina Chen of Hangzhou, China, and Omaha, Nebraska, for “On Eating Lotus,” and Gretchen Henderson of Washington, D.C., for a chapter from her book-in-progress, Life in the Tar Seeps. There were 10 finalists for the 2019 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing: Amy Clark, Matt Donovan, JoeAnn Hart, Ming Holden, Jeremy Lange, Sarah Mahoney, Ashok Rai, James Robinson and Sangjie Zhaxi, Kynita Stringer-Stanback, and Sheila Sundar.

Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres, a freelance photographer based in Colombia and France, won the 2018 prize, in photography, for her essay, “Point d’eau.”