The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University will not award a Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize in 2011. CDS awards director Alexa Dilworth says the prize, which supports collaboration between a documentary photographer and a writer, will take a one-year “hiatus.”  Dilworth tells PDN, “We are taking a year to explore ideas for supporting projects that use words and images in other ways besides stand-alone essays and still imagery–audio, multimedia, etc. –and we haven’t arrived there yet.”

According to the Lange-Taylor Prize web site, the decision to suspend the prize reflects “the rapidly changing environment in which documentary artists conduct their work.” Discussions about the future of the prize began in June 2010, which marked the 20th anniversary of the prize, Dilworth says, and included CDS executive director Tom Rankin, former director and Lange-Taylor prize co-founder Iris Tillman Hill, and former director  and director of programs and communications Lynn McKnight.  “We are talking amongst ourselves and with other colleagues at CDS about what collaboration, combining words and images, and ‘still’ photography, among other things, look like in the 21st century,” Dilworth says.

Rankin notes, “Everything in higher education, and at Duke, is getting a fresh look on the heels of a historic recession,” but says that CDS’s funding for the Lange-Taylor prize is not in jeopardy. “Our hiatus and reflection on the future of Lange-Taylor coincides with both the 20th anniversary of the prize and budget challenges, but the decision is in no way directly tied to finances, or to any outside funder’s restrictions on support.”

Dilworth notes that CDS continues to support photography and documentary work in other ways. It continues to administer the  First Book Prize given by the Honickman Foundation. In the past year CDS has launched a new photography prize in collaboration with Daylight Magazine, and has made the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival part of CDS.

Dilworth adds that she hopes with the hiatus,  “We at the Center for Documentary Studies might come up with new ways of supporting documentary artists involved in extended fieldwork projects and who are interested in producing nonfiction narratives that resonate with personal experience.”


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