Danielle Mayes Wins 2017 Louis Sudler Prize in the Creative and Performing Arts at Duke University
Following a nomination by the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Danielle Mayes, a CDS student and visual and media studies major, has been awarded the prestigious Louis Sudler Prize in the Creative and Performing Arts—an annual prize at fourteen major universities. The prize is awarded to the graduating senior at each university who has demonstrated the most distinguished record of excellence in performance or creation in one of the following areas: music, theater, painting, dance, design, film, creative writing, and other areas of the arts. At Duke, the award is made by the Duke University Council for the Arts; the recipient is awarded $2,000.
Mayes says that a public policy course spurred her into the documentary arts. “In Leadership, Policy and Change with Stephen Schewel, we read a lot about the history of dissent in the United States, which was crucial to me because I had just returned to Duke that semester after the summer of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, near where I lived. . . . For this course, I watched a documentary on the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth . . . launched me into action, and the next semester I took four documentary studies classes on videography in attempting to learn how to motivate other people to take action through hearing and seeing other people’s experiences.”
Mayes’s documentary studies classes at CDS spanned her interests in video, photography, multimedia production, and social change and activism. CDS instructor Katie Hyde’s Sociology Through Photography course “was the beginning of understanding visual knowledge for me,” Mayes says, “and instilled in me the meaningfulness of photography in the world.” A black-and-white film course with CDS instructor MJ Sharp helped Mayes rethink what the medium might allow her to explore. Under Sharp’s mentorship, Mayes produced five series of black-and-white photographs that are represented in her final capstone project, Whyt Noyz, a book of images, with text, that focuses on the narrative experiences of black people in the United States; scroll down to view a selection of those photographs.
“Mayes is tireless in her commitment to her vision,” says CDS director Wesley Hogan, with whom Mayes took the course Activism, Women, and Danger. “She pursues this vision with a technical felicity and innovative creativity that opens up new space for considering black interiority and subjectivity. . . . As MJ Sharp noted, Mayes ‘thinks about the state of the world like a sociologist and then she moves on it like an artist.’”
The Center for Documentary Studies has been extremely helpful to me,” Mayes says, including providing her “with the physical resources to actually produce my work—the darkroom, the [equipment] cage, the large digital printers, have all been invaluable resources. . . . I am so grateful for CDS as a student artist. That is where I found my place at Duke.”
After graduation from Duke in May 2017, Mayes will be living in Dallas, Texas, where she will continue to work on her film photography and develop her style as an artist. Alongside her fiancé, she will be an art-director intern for a small creative agency.
As part of the Center for Documentary Studies’ publishing partnership with the Oxford American, a selection of Danielle Mayes’s black-and-white photographs will be featured in a June 2017 installment of The By and By, a weekly series on the OA website.