February 1st, 2013

Project on African American and Latino Ballroom Subculture Wins CDS/Honickman First Book Prize

© Gerard H. Gaskin

© Gerard H. Gaskin

Gerard H. Gaskin’s photography series on the African American and Latino house and ballroom subculture of urban, gay pageants has received the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize.

The prize carries a $3,000 grant, and an opportunity to publish a book of the work and exhibit it online and at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The images also go into the permanent collection at Duke’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Judged by curator, historian and photographer Deborah Willis, the 2013 prize is the sixth biennial award given by Duke Center For Documentary Studies and the Honickman Foundation of Philadelphia.

According to Gaskin’ statement, “The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life and were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. Balls are constructed like beauty and talent pageants. The participants work to redefine and critique gender and sexual identity through an extravagant fashion masquerade.”

Though the balls originated in Harlem, Gaskin noted, the culture has grown and spread. He made his images in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. “My images try to show a personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society,” he says.

“Gaskin’s work looks at the notion of transformation as he turns his lens on what it means to be ‘desired,’ and at the same time, what it feels like to be alienated,” Willis said in a statement. “His photographs are as exciting to look at as they are a means for imagining the lived experiences of the communities he has documented.”

The prize is open to American and Canadian photographers of any age who have never published a book-length work. For more about the prize visit: firstbookprizephoto.com.

May 21st, 2012

Curator Deborah Willis to Judge 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize

Photo historian, professor and curator Deborah Willis will be the judge for this year’s CDS/Honickman First Book Prize, sponsored by The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University and The Honickman Foundation. The winning photographer will receive a $3,000 grant and publication of a book of photographs, an exhibition at the Rubenstein Library Gallery at Duke University and inclusion in a Web site devoted to past winners of the award. American and Canadian photographers who have never published a book-length work before are eligible to enter. Applications will be accepted from June 15 through September 15.

Submissions to the First Book Prize are first screened by a committee lead this year by Kimerly Rorshach, director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. According to the FAQs on the First Book Prize Web site, the focus of the competition is on “the breadth and nuance of the body of photographs as an extended narrative and meditation.” The committee’s selection is then turned over to this year’s judge.

Willis is on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has published such books as Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present; Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; The Black Female Body in Photography; and Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs. Previous judges for the First Book Prize include photographers Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Mary Ellen Mark.

Past winners of the prize have included Benjamin Lowy, Jennette Williams, Danny Wilcox Frazier, and Larry Schwarm.

Guidelines for entries can be found at the First Book Prize web site.