Latvian Photographer Iveta Vaivode’s Prizewinning Essay

"Pilcene, 2012." Photograph by Iveta Vaivode.

“Pilcene, 2012.” Photograph by Iveta Vaivode.

“The ambivalence of photographs, their possibilities and limitations, suggest that we should not trust images as records of our lives and histories.”—CDS Documentary Essay Prizewinner Iveta Vaivode

In her photo essay “Somewhere on a Disappearing Path,” Iveta Vaivode seeks to create a new family album, one full of images of imagined memories. The compelling, unique body of work garnered Vaivode the 2014 CDS Documentary Essay Prize, a Center for Documentary Studies competition that honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years. Vaivode, a freelance photographer based in Riga, Latvia, writes, “Looking at my parents’ family albums, I would imagine their lives before me. I constructed memories I didn’t have, playing them over and over again. . . . My work addresses the idea of memory and ‘looking back’ through the creation of a narrative based on family history.”

Click here to learn more about Vaivode’s winning essay and to view a slideshow of her photographs.
Read a followup story on Vaivode and the prize that appeared on the New Yorker‘s blog Photo Booth

For the last three years, Vaivode has been documenting the people of Pilcene, a remote village in eastern Latvia where her grandmother and mother were born, to search for stories connected to her family. The rural landscape and the people were quite different than she had expected, transforming her project from “a nostalgic photo album into a peculiarly dramatic portrait of perhaps the last inhabitants of a contemporary Latgale village.”

Vaivode receives $3,000 and will have her work featured in Document, a periodical published by the Center for Documentary Studies, as well as on CDS’s website. Shortlisted finalists included Mustafah Abdulaziz, “Water”; Justin Maxon, “Heaven’s Gain”; Dara McGrath, “Project Cleansweep”; Myriam Meloni, “Behind the Absence”; Noritaka Minami, “1972”; Chris Payne, “Textiles”; Magda Rakita, “God Made Woman, Then He Jerked”; Eirini Vourloumis, “In Waiting”; Wesley Thomas Wong, “The Ice Man Cometh.”

The next CDS Documentary Essay competition will be for writing; submissions will be accepted from November 1, 2014, to February 15, 2015. Click here for guidelines.



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