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Nadia Sablin Wins CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for Her Color Series “Aunties”

A six-letter word for..., 2011. Photograph by Nadia Sablin.

A six-letter word for…, 2011. Photograph by Nadia Sablin.

Freelance photographer Nadia Sablin was chosen by renowned curator and historian Sandra S. Phillips to win the seventh biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for her color series Aunties. The images document, as Sablin writes, “the lives of my aunts who live in Northwest Russia. Alevtina and Ludmila are in their seventies but carry on the traditional Russian way of life, chopping wood for heating the house, bringing water from the well, planting potatoes, and making their own clothes.”

View a gallery of images on the First Book Prize website and read a story about Sablin’s prizewinning project that appeared recently on The New Yorker blog Photo Booth.

“In these photographs, I record the stories of their lives, and explore the childhood memories I have of them,” Sablin writes of her aunts, who over the seven years of Sablin’s ongoing project began to collaborate with her in reinterpreting her memories and in creating new ones. These images combine observation and invention, biography and autobiography, and are thoughtful meditations on aging and belonging. Sablin’s quiet and lyrical photographs capture the small details and daily rituals of her aunts’ surprisingly colorful and dreamlike days, taking us not only to another country but another time. Alevtina and Ludmila seem both old and young in these images, as if time itself was as seamless and cyclical as their routines—sewing curtains, making quilts, tatting lace, planting seeds, weeding their garden—and as full of the same subtle mysteries.

First Book Prize judge Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA, described Sabin’s photographs as “wonderful and sophisticated. . . . The two sisters seem to exist in a privileged reality, one closer to the warm smell of strawberries in summer.”

Sablin receives a grant of $3,000, inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of the prizewinners, and publication of a book of photography; Phillips will write the introduction to the photobook, forthcoming in November 2015 from Duke University Press in association with CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Sabin will also have a solo exhibition in Duke’s new Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery, and the photographs will then be placed in the library’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Aunties: The Seven Summers of Alevtina and Ludmila
November 7, 2015–February 27, 2016
Thursday, November 12, 2015: Reception, Artist’s Talk, and Book Signing with Nadia Sablin: reception at 5:30, talk at 6:30 followed by book signing.
Rubenstein Library
Photography Gallery, Duke University

Nadia Sablin, a native of Russia, is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn, New York, whose work has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Moscow Times, Slate, and American Photo, among others. Her photographs have been seen in solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. Go to her website for more information.

The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is awarded by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Honickman Foundation.

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