Brenna Cukier, Laura Doggett, and Nicholas Pilarski: 2015–16 Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows

Projects from 2015-16 Hine Fellows Laura Doggett, Brenna Cukier, and Nicholas Pilarski

Top to bottom: Projects from 2015–16 Hine Fellows Laura Doggett, Brenna Cukier, and Nicholas Pilarski

The Center for Documentary Studies is pleased to announce the 2015–16 Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows, all of whom will be working with organizations in the New York City area; scroll down for more information on Brenna Cukier, Laura Doggett, and Nicholas Pilarski. Founded on the spirit, values, and actions of social documentary photographer Lewis Hine, CDS’s Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program connects the talents of young documentarians with the needs of organizations serving children and their communities around the world. Learn more on the program’s blog, and enjoy a recently-launched website by former Hine Fellow Natalie Minik that revisits five Hine Fellowship projects during the program’s seven years of working with organization’s in Boston—


Still image from "Susan," a short documentary film by Brenna Cukier

Still image from “Susan,” a short documentary film by Brenna Cukier

Brenna was born in Tempe, Arizona, but moved to Auckland, New Zealand, at age ten. She received her BA in journalism as a Robertson Scholar at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where she reported for the student newscast for two years until she became the executive producer. During her sophomore year, she participated in a component of the Robertson Program known as the “semester switch,” when scholars spend a year in residence at their sister campus. In an effort to find a way to combine her newsroom skills with her passion for creative storytelling, she enrolled in three CDS courses. From that semester onward, she simultaneously pursued these programs at both universities.

By combining videography with her love for travel and her interest in NGOs, Brenna spent her summers documenting the work of various education-focused non-profits around the world, from Atlanta, Georgia, to the Azores Islands to Bali, Indonesia. This summer, Brenna will utilize support from CDS’s John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Award with the AJC Goldman Fellowship to make a connection between the work she will be doing at her internship with the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations in Warsaw, Poland with the story of her own family’s history. By re-tracing the steps of her Holocaust-survivor grandparents, she hopes to fill some of the gaps in her identity that she has been curious about since childhood.

Regarding the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellowship, Brenna writes, “My past documentary experiences have validated that I thrive in new and challenging environments, and the Hine Fellowship is a new challenge in which I hope to produce meaningful and provocative work. If I have learned anything as a videographer, it’s that we don’t stop looking through a lens when we put the camera down, and I am excited to see how the Fellowship will contribute to my perception of the world and how my perception of the world will contribute to the lives of others.”

To see some of Brenna’s work, visit her YouTube channel.


Workshop with Syrian girls in Northern Jordan, 2015, by Laura Doggett

Workshop with Syrian girls in Northern Jordan, 2015. Photograph by Laura Doggett.

Laura is a community artist and educator who believes in the transformative power of creative expression and storytelling in the lives of young people. She has spent much of the past twenty years creating opportunities for girls to be heard in their own voices. Through video, audio, writing, theater and visual arts, Laura has worked with girls from underserved and marginalized communities in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, the immigrant communities and inner-cities of New York City and Washington, D.C., and Jordan’s Syrian refugee camps and urban areas (work that she undertook as a Felsman Fellow in 2014), to express their experiences through various artistic approaches to storytelling. She has seen the tools of documentary arts give girls a sense of agency and power over their own stories and dreams, and is constantly thrilled to see the amazement in girls, whenever they share their artistic work with the public, as they realize the value their voices and visions carry in opening up channels of understanding, dialogue and change. She graduated from Duke University with an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts in 2013.

On working as a Hine Fellow, Laura writes, “I feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to work with an organization full of people who are deeply invested in finding innovative approaches to supporting young people in their communities. I’m excited to see where the young people I will work with take us as they engage with the documentary arts process—using these tools to find a voice that’s distinctive and undeniably their own, and drawing upon their surroundings, memory and imaginations to shape their stories. I hope that together, this young collective of media makers can create a complex and vibrant portrait that reflects what they most want to share about how they see and move through their worlds in this particular landscape of home and time in their lives.”

Examples of Laura’s work can be found at,, and


Still image from "I, Destini," by Nicholas Pilarski

Still image from “I, Destini,” a short film by Nicholas Pilarski

Nicholas aims to create art that facilitates a space for development and growth through documentary practice. His work focuses on issues that surround social and economic marginalization He uses collaborative art-making approaches that engage with individuals and communities to create dialogue through self-expression.

With experience working in music, theater, and film, Nicholas uses a multidisciplinary approach to inform his work. He has performed in a range of theatrical productions that include acting as a Blue Man with the Blue Man Group in both Chicago and New York City, and has played percussion with various Grammy nominated artists. As an educator he has facilitated master classes on theater methodologies, and most recently, documentary theory. After finishing a degree from the University of Michigan in theater and film, he traveled to West Bengal, India, to work with and learn from the world’s largest Theatre of the Oppressed movement, Jana Sanskriti. There, he concentrated on how theatrical and social techniques developed by the group could influence new-media and documentary.

This experience was fundamental in Nicholas’s decision to obtain an MFA from Duke University’s program in Experimental and Documentary Arts. While at Duke, he worked to connect performance methodologies, Theatre of the Oppressed practices, and computational media to create his thesis project, I, Destini. This animated film explored the poignant and imaginative perspective of a youth grappling with the effects of having an incarcerated loved one. The documentary came to life through a series of creative workshops with Destini (the film’s main character/co-creator) and her family. This process ultimately focused on how documentary practices could foster reciprocal and creative dialog while advocating for social reform. Nicholas hopes to continue to build upon the collaborative documentary process he began developing while working with Destini and her family.

Recent film screenings include Meet the Press at The Indie Grits Film Festival, Columbia, South Carolina; Of Remnants at The Cinedans Film Festival at the National Film Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Semi-Winged at Abstract Currents at the MoMA and MoMA-PS1, New York, New York.

About the Lewis Hine Fellowship Nicholas writes, “I am excited and honored to be a Lewis Hine Fellow. While supported by the fellowship I hope to help create a space where ideas can be shared freely and personal history can be documented through the process of collaborative self-expression. I can think of no greater privilege than to create work through the optic of activism and education that Lewis Hine helped pave almost a century ago.”

To see some of Nicholas’s work, visit

Be Sociable, Share!

    Leave a Reply