2016 First Book Prize in Photography Countdown Highlights Past Winners: From 2006, Danny Wilcox Frazier’s “Driftless: Photographs from Iowa”

Sale Barn Café, Kalona, 2005. Photograph by Danny Wilcox Frazier.

Sale Barn Café, Kalona, 2005. Photograph by Danny Wilcox Frazier.

The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is a biennial prize that offers publication of a book of photography, a $3,000 award, and inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of winners of the prize. Each year a significant and innovative artist, curator, or writer in photography is chosen to judge the prize and write an introduction to the winning book.

In the months preceding the 2016 prize’s submission deadline, we’re taking a look back at previous winners. Danny Wilcox Frazier was selected as the 2006 prizewinner by Robert Frank, one of America’s most important and influential photographers. The native Iowan’s black-and-white photographs in Driftless: Photographs from Iowa show a changing Midwest of vanishing towns and transformed landscapes in the wake of failing rural economies and a vast exodus of people, resources, and services to the coasts and cities, taking viewers into the lives of the individuals who stayed behind and continued to live there. Poetic and dark but illuminated with flashes of insight, Frazier’s Driftless was a New York Photo Award finalist for Best Photography Book of the Year and was featured in photo-eye, Photo District News, and Lens, the New York Times photo blog. In 2010, Frazier’s film version of Driftless won a Webby Award and was nominated for an Emmy in the “New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming” category. Scroll down to watch a video and interview with Danny Wilcox Frazier about his prizewinning project, and go to firstbookprizephoto.com/photogalleries to view work by all past winners.

Danny Wilcox Frazier

Danny Wilcox Frazier

“I always had this desire to leave, not necessarily to know where I was going but to leave,” said Frazier. “That tension is still there, and that tension has influenced my work, is a big part of it. I hope people recognize the tension as something that a lot of people who are from rural communities, it’s not just rural Iowa, it’s rural communities around the country, what they wrestle with—the connection to community, the connection to the culture, the connection to one’s family, but at the same time the challenges that the lack of economic opportunity, or just the influence of popular culture and mass media, has on that life. . . . Still, it’s my home. It’s where I’m from. . . . Knowing that it was going to become a book, this story that I cared so much about . . . and have that recognized by someone like Robert Frank? I mean, it’s unbelievable.”

Submissions for the eighth CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography are now being accepted through September 15, 2016. Peter Barberie, the Brodsky Curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be this year’s prize judge. Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of the Aperture Foundation, will chair the selection committee that chooses the finalists.

For information on how to apply, and to view galleries of past winners: firstbookprizephoto.com.

Danny Wilcox Frazier: “Driftless: Photographs from Iowa” from Center for Documentary Studies on Vimeo.

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