A new exhibit at the Center for Documentary Studies features photographs from Ken Abbott of Hickory Nut Gap Farm, an inn and farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. An event at CDS on August 18 will bring the photographer, Ken Abbott, to the exhibition space for a reception and artists’ talk. Scroll down to see photos from the exhibit in a slideshow below.
Useful Work: Photographs of Hickory Nut Gap Farm
June 2–September 10, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 6–9 p.m.: Reception and Artist’s Talk with Photographer Ken Abbott
Center for Documentary Studies
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina
On a honeymoon trip to western North Carolina in 1916, Elizabeth and Jim McClure visited a place then known as Sherrill’s Inn; they were entranced, so much so that they purchased the inn and surrounding land, rechristening it Hickory Nut Gap Farm. A hundred years later, the “Big House” and property remains a vibrant home and community hub where five generations of McClures and extended family have visited, lived, and worked the land.
Photographer Ken Abbott first visited in 2004 on his daughter’s class field trip and was as taken with the site as the McClures had been decades earlier. “The place had a time-capsule quality,” he writes, “but it was clearly no museum—there were signs of a busy contemporary life, with a story of its own to tell. . . . It was a beautiful setting, rich in lore, and I looked forward to coming back with my camera.” Abbott’s photographs, taken between 2004 and 2009, are featured in the traveling exhibition and book Useful Work: Photographs of Hickory Nut Gap Farm (Goosepen Studio & Press, 2015, with essays by Ken Neufeld).
The images document the objects and actions of day-to-day life at the Big House and land, “where the now collides so propitiously with the then,” as a review on the Aperture blog puts it—rugs hang over a fence to dry, flowers and eggs are gathered, a battered silver pitcher that belonged to Elizabeth McClure, still used every day to bring water from the springhouse, sits on the kitchen counter. The latter photograph distilled for Abbott “one of the great lessons” of his time at Hickory Nut Gap Farm: “that we should honor beauty and our past and reach for intimacy with our given place. Like a camera lens the pitcher focuses the family story. Yet in the photograph of it, we are also reminded that there are dishes to wash and work to do.”
The quarterly publication Document features some of the best documentary work supported and produced by the Center for Documentary Studies. The current issue is now available online; scroll down to view. Highlights in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue include a feature on Storymakers: Durham, a citizen-storyteller project coordinated by CDS audio director John Biewen, highlights from the 2016 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a round-up of CDS exhibits and education news, and more.
To browse past issues, click here.
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“In an endless sea of opportunities, we can either sink or swim. At Duke, I’ve done both.” —Duke undergraduate and RIPP Fellow in the Documentary Arts Sherry Zhang
An exhibit on view in the Center for Documentary Studies Porch Gallery features the photographs of CDS undergraduate Sherry Zhang. As part of the RIPP Fellowship in the Documentary Arts, Zhang was mentored this past fall by CDS instructor and cofounder Alex Harris. Zhang’s documentary portrait series of Duke women explores the themes of trauma and transformation in each of the women’s lives.
How Do We Heal? Exhibit
Through October 10, 2016
Center for Documentary Studies, Porch Gallery
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina
“In an endless sea of opportunities, we can either sink or swim. At Duke, I’ve done both. Over the past two years, in order to help me cope with difficult issues in my own life, I sought out a broad range of Duke women to talk about their own experiences dealing with trauma,” says Zhang. “Through the process, this project transformed from an exhibit about trauma to an exhibit about healing. You’ll notice that none of the portraits have captions and that’s because captions could never sufficiently describe who these women are. It is my hope that you will take the time today to meditate on each portrait in order to get a sense of the strength, beauty, and complexity, of these women.”
“The RIPP Fellowship has helped me grow immensely as an artist through the incredible mentorship and community support,” says Zhang. “The RIPP Fellowship allowed me to pursue what I loved, which is storytelling and connecting with others. With the help of Alex, I was better able to frame my work to deliver my intended message. I learned how to make a cohesive body of work and refine my artistic vision. Seeing the process from beginning to end has been unbelievable and inspires me to keep creating.”
The exhibition and public forum are supported by the RIPP Fellowships in the Documentary Arts.
The Certificate in Documentary Studies program attracts Duke undergraduates to the Center for Documentary Studies from across the arts and sciences. Under the guidance of Nancy Kalow and Alex Harris, six seniors in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 Documentary Capstone Seminars completed a final project as the culmination of their documentary studies classes.
An exhibition of the graduated seniors’ work, Beyond the Front Porch 2016, is on view in the University Gallery at the Center for Documentary Studies through October 1, 2016.
The six Duke University students in the Class of 2016 who graduated with a Certificate in Documentary Studies describe themselves and their work:
Bend, Oregon | Visual and Media Studies
I am an artist, designer, and storyteller whose combination of life experiences and academics has led me to create work influenced by the environment, human emotion, and an exploration of the Anthropocene. Working from these focal points, I have created images and digital media in an attempt to capture moments of the human condition deeply rooted in nature. I believe that my work ultimately illustrates the intersection of the self with contemporary culture and the environment. In my capstone project I depart from my previous style and subject matter and take a very personal approach to storytelling. I examine my past four years as a varsity athlete at Duke by collecting and editing my own story and the stories of my friends and classmates involved in Duke athletics. I am creating a portrait of sports that explores a different side to athletics than is usually told. This story relates to the broader themes of change, growing up, and adapting when things don’t go as planned.
Amdo, Tibet | International Comparative Studies
Early in my sophomore year, I fell in love with the art of storytelling. That was when I started to explore photography and documentary narrative. After taking many classes at CDS, I started to see the world through a more critical lens. I learned the crucial roles each of us plays in the lives of other people. My capstone project, Anywhere and Everywhere, is a video documentary project about the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in the Tibetan refugee communities in India. Through the stories of patients and health workers at Delek Hospital, a Tibetan hospital located in northern India, I look into the day-to-day struggles of TB patients and their battles—despite limited resources—against the disease. This documentary shows that TB goes beyond its biomedical implications—its complexities are related to politics as well as other social, cultural, and economic conditions. Without knowing about those conditions—the real life situation of individuals—it is impossible to eradicate or minimize the rate of TB. Through my film, I hope to show that compassion and the intimate relationship between health workers and patients at Delek is one of the key factors that is helping to combat TB in the Tibetan community in India.
Rancho Santa Margarita, California | Global Cultural Studies
The Center for Documentary Studies was my first home at Duke. Before I deliberately joined any groups, before I declared a major, before I covered my laptop with a deluge of stickers, I stumbled into a CDS classroom and into some of the most fulfilling relationships and passions of my life. In this home, I discovered that documentary work is a mode of inquiry that challenges my own conceptions of what is true and who gets to speak their truths. Engaging in documentary work has invigorated my intellectual journey in other disciplines, like literature and critical theory. During my time at Duke, I became invested in a question and the stakes of that question for different people around the world: Who is a citizen? For my capstone project, rhapsody, I traveled to seven different cities around the world and interviewed individuals about love, community, and global citizenship. I wanted to ask the same questions I’m asking in my classes, but to include those who are often excluded from these conversations. My final product is a mix of audio documentary work, critical theory, and personal essay.
Dayton, Ohio | Biology/Pre-Med; Music minor
I had no idea what documentary studies entailed prior to coming to Duke, but it’s amazing how one class changed everything. My freshman seminar with Bill Bamberger introduced me to the realm of documentary studies, and I quickly developed my passion for documentary arts. I have expanded my knowledge of photography and journalism through classes at CDS and working with the student-run paper, The Chronicle. While I have studied various forms of documentary arts, I unexpectedly found myself completing my capstone project in an experimental genre, something very new for me. The Soapbox is an experimental documentary consisting of an audio collage of individual responses by a number of Duke undergraduates in response to the question, How are you? The collage weaves the monologues into dialogues of common themes and emotions; these dialogues play in the background to video of four dancers improvising in response to the monologues. The project reveals our complex thoughts and emotions behind our typically rote responses and creates a dance of voices and movement that comes close to the chaos of emotions we truly feel. I’d like to thank all of my CDS instructors—John Biewen, Bill Bamberger, Nancy Kalow, Susie Post-Rust, Katie Hyde, and Alex Harris—for sharing their knowledge of the documentary tradition.
Ann Arbor, Michigan | Biology; Certificate in Marine Science and Conservation Leadership
I realize now that I was unbelievably naïve when I first came to Duke. I thought I knew what to expect, but I had no idea what was to come during the next four years. I entered with a love of photography and a passion for people and their stories, but hadn’t made a connection between the two. Little did I know how much time I would dedicate to merging these two interests through the Certificate in Documentary Studies program at CDS. I began my journey into the exploration of documentary studies based on a suggestion by one of my first-semester professors, Charlie Thompson. I continued to develop my own focus on documentary photography. Through my CDS courses, I have been able to translate into images and words the stories I hear and the events I observe. I’ve come to better understand people while also understanding more about myself, which has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from the program. In my final capstone project, Musical Memoirs, I explored how each person’s favorite song affects their emotions and is tied to specific memories. Through photography and interviews, I was able not only to explore important moments in other people’s lives, but also to think about how music affected, and still affects, my own life. The culmination of my capstone project was a website that combines both visual and audio components and allows for the exploration of other people’s stories while reflecting on our own life’s playlist.
Los Angeles, California | Visual and Media Studies; Women’s Studies
I fell in love with the visual storytelling power of photography in high school, and the classes I have taken over the last four years at CDS have deepened and intensified my interest in the documentary arts. My coursework and my involvement in the fellowship program at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival have transformed my interest in photography into a passion for all things documentary. For my capstone project, I set out to debunk the myth of “effortless perfection,” the pressure that plagues so many young women at Duke to be smart, attractive, fit, and popular without visible effort. I created a series of intimate portraits of young women getting ready for bed at night in the privacy of their own rooms. By creating a body of work that features these women free from makeup, fashion, and the superficial elements that perpetuate the illusion of perfection, I hope to show the beauty and value in our essential selves.
Audio Under the Stars—a series of summer-long outdoor listening parties created by graduates of the Center for Documentary Studies Certificate in Documentary Arts program—Jenny Morgan and Elizabeth Friend—debuted in 2014 to widespread delight, with curated playlists of compelling audio pieces. CDS will again host the series, which kicks off Friday, May 27, with Bad Advice & Second Chances. Scroll down for the full series schedule.
Bring your own lawn chair or blanket. Dang Good Dogs will be selling hot dogs, turkey dogs, and veggie dogs all night. This year, Audio Under the Stars is on only when weather conditions are favorable for an outdoor event. If it’s raining, the event will be held on the rain date listed below.
Note: Shows are from 8–10 p.m. at the Center for Documentary Studies, in Durham, North Carolina. Free parking. Directions.
Audio Under The Stars, Season 3
Bad Advice & Second Chances
Show: May 27 (rain date June 3)
Some of us have actually paid cash money for a 1974 Dodge Dart. Tell us your stories about when you listened to your Uncle Leo rather than your common sense and a Consumer Reports review, or any other time you told that small voice in your head to shut up and sit down, and how you’ve lived to tell the tale.
Destination Unknown: Trips, Travels, and Unexpected Journeys
Show: June 17 (rain date June 25)
Tell us about a time when you went in search of something: a new place, a lost love, a chance at following a dream. Or when you set out just for fun—where did the wanderlust take you and who did you meet along the way? We want stories of those eager for change and those longing for what’s left behind.
Danger: Tales of Mischief and Misfortune
Show: July 22 (rain date July 29)
We’re looking for stories with an element of danger, either real or imagined. A lurking threat, a prank gone wrong, bullets dodged or imminent disaster. These could be humorous or serious; ideally, stories will have a bit of each.
Work It: Stories of Labor and Leisure
Show: August 26 (rain date September 2)
Drudgery or dream job—how do you make your money? What’s the oddest job you’ve ever taken? What would push you to walk away? At the end of the day, how do you put the world of work behind you? We’re looking for stories about any kind of work and play.
The Center for Documentary Studies is pleased to announce a new partnership with Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The Continuing Education Program at CDS is partnering with the Nicholas School’s Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) Executive Education program to provide working professionals with new opportunities to enhance their environmental communications skills. Through the partnership, participants in some CDS Continuing Education classes can now apply their course credits in documentary studies toward earning a DEL Certificate in Environmental Communications.
The four-course, non-degree DEL Certificate provides professionals with the training and tools needed to implement an effective environmental campaign. Participants learn how to develop and implement strategic communications and marketing plans; produce content to reach key audiences through digital, electronic and print platforms; and measure results. Course offerings at CDS eligible for the certificate will span a range of documentary mediums, including documentary film and audio storytelling.
“We are very excited to offer our courses to the Nicholas School’s environmental leadership students,” said April Walton, director of CDS’s Continuing Education program. “Graduate and undergrad students as well as faculty and staff add to the richness of our program. We welcome the opportunity to build bridges within the university.”
At a two-night graduation event at the Full Frame Theater, seven Continuing Education students at the Center for Documentary Studies will present their final projects to the public and receive their Certificate in Documentary Arts, having completed a structured sequence of courses. During the course, students finish a substantial documentary work—projects that often move out into the world in the form of exhibits, installations, screenings, websites, audio features, and more.
Here, the Certificate in Documentary Arts graduates:
Martha Brown lives in Greenville, North Carolina. Her documentary, The 50th Wooten Family Reunion: The Year of Jubilee—Let Us Rejoice, chronicles the descendants of Lewis, Laura Jane, and St. Annie Wooten at their annual family reunion. Following in the footsteps of her Aunt Delilah Yvonne Marrow, Brown, the granddaughter of Lewis and St. Annie, set out to document the 50th reunion. She interviewed members of the first, second, third, and fourth generations of her family, collecting their thoughts about reunions past and hopes for the future.
Tom Dierolf has lived in Brevard, North Carolina, since 2004. He worked in rural community development for twenty-five years in Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Appalachia, and is now in the midst of a career change. His short film Almost Cured tells the story of the 1963 Brevard High School Blue Devils, a racially integrated high school football team that went on to win the State 3A championship. In a year of great civil unrest that saw the Birmingham church bombing, the murder of Medgar Evers, and the March on Washington, Tom says, “a small Southern Appalachian county . . . that was, and remains more than 93 percent white, was able to peacefully integrate even before the many urban areas of the state.” The documentary includes interviews with the coach, players, fans, and others, along with present-day footage and archival photos, film, and print media.
Kris Dyson teaches digital media, game design, computer programming, and television production in the Information Communication Technology Academy at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Boynton Beach, Florida. She is an advocate for gifted and talented students, having spent ten years as an educator in the field. Gifted females, she says, “often lack appropriate guidance, enrichment experiences, mentoring, and understanding.” For her multimedia project, The Gifted Girl Chronicles, Kris collected oral histories from girls and women who have been labeled “gifted and talented” during their educational experiences, exploring “how they navigate the social, emotional, and academic landscapes of their lives. What causes some girls to succeed where others stumble? How has the gifted label shaped their life choices or defined them as a person?”
Dana Endsley is a visual artist, activist, workshop facilitator, and holistic bodywork therapist living in Mount Holly, North Carolina. Her film One Last Stand tells the story of a 2015 reunion of former high school band members to honor their director—Paul “Prof” Semicek—and to perform again as “The Mounties.” In the late 1950s Prof was hired as band director for Mount Carmel High School in northeastern Pennsylvania—the heart of the Coal Region. Dana says, “Prof affected thousands of kids’ lives and showed them a world they would have never seen. Through his vision, talent, and unending work, he created a world class marching band from a group of rag-tag working class kids.” During Prof’s tenure, the Mounties performed at multiple venues and events on the East Coast and in Canada.
Hether Hoffmann is an artist, paddler, kayak coach, and documentarian from Chicago. She teaches art at Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, and is a Current Designs sponsored sea kayaker. Paddling in Spite of the Ordinary: Bonnie A. Perry, Agency and Grace is part of her documentary series about two women sea kayakers from Chicago; the series “explores how women sea kayakers aspire to accomplish their paddling goals while exploring themes of spirituality, social justice, challenge, community, and acceptance,” says Hether. Her film about Bonnie Perry delves into “the spirituality of water and life balance through paddling, sport, and sermons.” Perry is an expert canoe instructor/trainer and a Wilderness First Responder who is also the senior pastor at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago.
Christopher J. Lee is a scholar currently based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He will be an associate professor of history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania beginning this summer. Hours of an Age: Anti-Photojournalism and Everyday Life in Palestine focuses on life in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and “seeks to challenge the dominant themes of photojournalism in Israel/Palestine with its imagery of stone-throwing Palestinian youth in conflict with Israeli soldiers,” Christopher says. “This series of photographs instead explores what the everyday means for Palestinians and Israelis living day to day, side by side, in order to understand the undefined times and spaces of ‘uneventfulness’ but without overlooking the tense politics at hand.”
Saro Lynch-Thomason is a ballad singer, illustrator, and audio storyteller living in Asheville, North Carolina. She shares stories of America’s labor and environmental histories through multimedia projects and performances. As a child, she says, she was raised with vivid recollections of her Appalachian Civil War ancestors—stories “of desperation, anger, and betrayal: of cousins hung in their front yards by the home guard and in-laws committing suicide from depression. Honor is an effort to lay my family’s Civil War ghosts to rest through an exploration of the ways Appalachians remember and tell stories about this bloody conflict.” The audio piece shares voices from Confederate reenactors in Virginia and storytellers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.
Rebecca Williams is a writer, director, educator, and artist who has facilitated community-based arts and cultural development projects for the past twenty-five years in Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. She currently shoots and edits short digital stories for artists, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits with Mountain Girl Media. Her first documentary film, Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Town, is about the Beacon Blanket Mill and the people who worked there. Described as the “big red thumping heart” of Swannanoa, North Carolina, Beacon was once the largest manufacturer of blankets in the world. Rebecca’s film “looks at what happens to a small mountain community when it loses its manufacturing base and its heart,” she says.
The Center for Documentary Studies and the Southern Documentary Fund are pleased to present a free screening of director Carol Thomson’s Liberty Warehouse, which explores the history of an iconic tobacco auction warehouse in Durham, North Carolina. The film is presented as part of the Fresh Docs series featuring documentary works-in-progress; following the screenings, a moderated conversation with the filmmaker(s) will be held, during which the audience provides valuable feedback. Watch a preview of the film here.
Note: Fresh Docs screenings are free, but attendees must RESERVE A TICKET via Eventbrite.
Friday, May 13, 7 p.m.
Full Frame Theater, American Tobacco Campus
320 Blackwell St., Durham, North Carolina
Liberty Warehouse (working title) tells the story of the tobacco auction warehouse that after the decline of tobacco became the home of creative artists until it was condemned and later demolished. The half-hour documentary examines the ebb and flow of Liberty’s eighty-year lifespan, draws parallels with the evolution of downtown Durham, and reveals the often touching, interdependent relationship between the two. Liberty Warehouse is directed and produced by Carol Thomson, edited by Jim Haverkamp, and shot by Randy Benson and Carol Thomson.
Carol Thomson is an independent documentary filmmaker and web developer. She studied documentary film at QPIX in Brisbane, Australia from 2000-2001 and earned a Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in 2005. Carol is the recipient of the Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Award for her interactive documentary, Bridging Rails to Trails: Stories of the American Tobacco Trail. She received a Gracie Award for American Women in Radio and Television for the short video, HAND – Health Arts Network at Duke. Carol’s production company, FireStream Media, has been located in downtown Durham since 2006, where she has witnessed downtown’s renaissance first hand.
For the past ten years, Duke University undergraduates have been documenting Hillsborough, North Carolina, each spring as part of Small Town, USA, a course at the Center for Documentary Studies taught by Susie Post-Rust. Each student chooses a photography project to pursue within the town and spends the semester documenting that story.
Small Town, USA Pop-Up Exhibition and Presentations
Friday, April 29, 2016, 6 p.m. exhibition on King St. in front of the Hillsborough Courthouse; 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. presentations at the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church at 102 W. Tryon St.
Narrated student presentations and a pop-up exhibition of this year’s student photographs will be on view as part of Hillsborough’s “Last Friday” event on April 29, 2016. The exhibition will open at 6 p.m. in front of the Hillsborough Courthouse on King Street. Thirteen students will present their projects with narrated slideshows in two separate groups at 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. at the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. Come early for free ice cream on the church lawn!
With our connections to and great admiration for the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia, we at the Center for Documentary Studies are looking forward to the annual event’s next installment, June 13–19. LOOK3 is about celebrating the vision of extraordinary photographers, igniting conversations about critical issues, and fostering the next generation of artists.
Photographers and educators at all stages of their careers won’t want to miss the festival’s expanded LOOK3 EDU program with career-advancing advice from industry leaders. The festival also is offering a number of opportunities for students, including scholarships for emerging photographers and a free event, “PDN 30 Emerging Photographers Panel: Strategies for Emerging Photographers,” to kick off their other educational offerings.
LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph
June 13–19, 2016
The Downtown Mall and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
Over the years, LOOK3 has featured members of the CDS family, such as CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography judges Mary Ellen Mark and Deborah Willis, Lange-Taylor Prize judge and 2015 Documentary Forum presenter Sylvia Plachy, and CDS award winners Ernesto Bazan, Danny Wilcox Frazier, and Donald Weber. In addition, Yolanda Cuomo, who has designed six of the seven First Book Prize in Photography winners’ books; Melissa Harris, this year’s Selection Panel Judge for the First Book Prize in Photography; and Deborah Willis, also a former Lehman Brady Chair Professor at CDS, currently serve on the festival’s Curatorial Advisory Board. (To expand on the idea of family: LOOK3 intern Gwen Dilworth is the niece of CDS’s publishing and awards director Alexa Dilworth, who has served as a portfolio reviewer for the festival in years past.)
This year’s line-up of artists and events promises to be as extraordinary as ever. Nick Brandt, Graciela Iturbide, Frans Lanting, Yuri Kozyrev, Olivia Bee, Sheila Pree Bright, Mary F. Calvert, Binh Danh, Doug DuBois, and Radcliffe “Ruddy” Roye will all be appearing on the Paramount stage. Exhibitions by each of the featured artists can be seen in pop-up galleries, on buildings, and even in the trees along Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. In addition, LOOK3 will have two outdoor Evening Projections, one on June 17 at the Charlottesville Pavilion with video essays curated by TIME magazine, and the other on June 18 produced by MediaStorm at the IX Art Park, with a Finale Party to follow. Not to be missed!