CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography judge Deborah Willis, the renowned curator, historian, and photographer, has chosen Gerard H. Gaskin to win the prize for his black-and-white and color photographs that document the African American and Latino house and ballroom community. Willis says that she found Gaskin’s photographs “innovative and spirited,” the images filled with both hope and struggle as “they explore ideas of longing, beauty, and desire.” Gaskin’s photos were taken over a twenty-year period in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. “The balls were born out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves,” writes Gaskin. “My images try to show a personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society.”
Gaskin’s work was selected from nearly two hundred entries in the sixth biennial First Book Prize competition, cosponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies and the Honickman Foundation. The prize is open to American and Canadian photographers of any age who have never had a book-length publication and honors work that is visually compelling, that bears witness, and that has integrity of purpose.
Gaskin receives a grant of $3,000, publication of a book of photography, and inclusion in an online exhibition of prizewinners. He will also have a solo exhibition at the Center for Documentary Studies and his photographs will then be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts in Duke University’s Rubenstein Library. Deborah Willis will write a foreword to the book, Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene, which will be published in fall 2013 by Duke University Press in association with CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.