Documentary Essay Prize 2019 - Center for Documentary Studies


Documentary Essay Prize – Center for Documentary Studies

Documentary Essay Prize - Center for Documentary Studies

Opening: December 1, 2019
Deadline: March 1, 2020
Entry fee: $40
Prizes: $3,000

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.

There are no restrictions on the age and nationality of the applicants.

All entries must have one thing in common: evidence that they were created with reliance on documentary methods and immersive fieldwork. We are interested in work that directs its gaze outward, that curiously engages with the world, and that is, as former CDS director Tom Rankin describes, “derived from an in-depth understanding of place, history, and the current situation, in concert with a personal relationship to the proposed work. Ultimately, the commitment is to use documentary expression to motivate the thinking and reflection of others.” The judging will be based only on the work as presented, with focus on the strength and nuance of the essay submitted as a narrative; the subject matter can be weighty or light-hearted.


  • Application materials will be accepted between December 1, 2019, and March 1, 2020.
  • Entries must be submitted no later than January 31.
  • The winner will be publicly announced in June 2020.



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