Michel Huneault Wins 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize for “Post Mégantic”

Chaudière River at sunrise, February 2014. From "Post Mégantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

Chaudière River at sunrise, February 2014. From “Post Mégantic” by Michel Huneault.

My collaborations with people in Mégantic echo through the work, which has become an active fragment of evolving collective memory. . . . —Michel Huneault on his prizewinning project 

The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University has awarded the twenty-third Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize to Canadian documentary photographer Michel Huneault for Post Mégantic, his project on a small town in Quebec that was the site of Canada’s deadliest train disaster in 150 years. The $10,000 prize is given to encourage documentary work in the tradition of acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor and supports documentary artists—working alone or in teams—whose extended fieldwork projects rely on the interplay of words and images.

A meditation on loss and mourning, Post Mégantic incorporates photographs, videos, oral histories, and installations to tell the story of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where on the night of July 6, 2013, a cargo train from North Dakota carrying nearly 8 million liters of shale oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and effectively destroying the town. From a population of 6,000, one out of every 128 citizens died. The explosion leveled most of the town center, creating a 400-meter-wide area that is still inaccessible.

More information on Michel Huneault and Post Mégantic, including a slideshow and short video

A New York Times Lens Blog story, a TIME Lightbox story, and a PDN Pulse feature on Huneault, Post Mégantic, and the Lange-Taylor Prize

“After fourteen visits and seventy days on the ground, up to mid-July 2014,” Huneault writes in his project statement, “I had completed a symbolic one year of mourning with the community. . . . Through the seasons and aftershocks, I became friends with many Méganticois, sharing in the ebb and flow of their emotions: pain, anger, hope for healing and peace of mind. Late in 2014, I was present to document another peculiar event: After more than a year of debates, the city decided to flatten half of the Red Zone, the still-contaminated downtown, that had not been destroyed in the explosion but had continued to soak up oil. As a farewell, the zone was opened for eight hours on a single day. For the first time in eighteen months, the citizens had access to the heart of the town before it was erased.”

Huneault describes Post Mégantic as a “requiem to the victims,” a documentary narrative about life, death, the fragility of existence that he hopes will evoke for viewers of the work a “visceral sense of empathy, an appreciation based on introspection, imagination, and compassion.” His collaboration with the people and town of Lac-Mégantic will continue, as he returns “hopefully to find more light and healing.”

The members of the Lange-Taylor Prize Committee also awarded an Honorable Mention to Alice Leora Briggs and Julián Cardona for Abecedario de Juárez, which combines a glossary, interview-based narratives, and drawings to create “an unhinged graphic dictionary of the language of violence” in Juárez, Mexico, and a Special Recognition to Serge J-F. Levy for The Fire in the Freezer, a personal documentary about moving from New York City to Tucson, Arizona—in photographs and “strophes and vignettes”—as a way to “digest this transition in my life.”

More information on the other finalists, both solo artists and teams, for the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

More information about the Lange-Taylor Prize, and 2016 guidelines. Submissions will be accepted from February 1 to May 9, 2016.

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    One Response to “Michel Huneault Wins 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize for “Post Mégantic””

    1. […] Center for Documentary Studies has awarded Canadian photographer Michel Huneault the 23rd Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize for his work Post Mégantic. A multimedia project with images, oral histories, videos and […]

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