Over the course of six evenings in September and October of 2016, photographer and filmmaker Hal Goodtree brought eight CDS Continuing Education students out into the streets of Durham to learn Documentary Night Photography. They learned all about shooting in low light, then reviewed their work in group sessions each week. See a slideshow of their work below.
Goodtree describes the process: “As the instructor for Documentary Night Photography, I wanted students to advance both their technical skills and their aesthetic awareness. This year, I added a review of student work to every class, giving me insight into individual strengths and weaknesses. Also this year, I started showing my own photographic ‘mistakes’ to illustrate certain points, lowering student anxiety about experimentation and notions of personal success or failure.
“On the street, I hunted up class members, getting them to show me some work and discussing issues which were confounding them. One student had chronic trouble tightening up the tripod; another had AF turned off and wondered why the photos were out of focus. Almost everyone had trouble with color temperature at night. Finally, I put some effort into taking pictures of the class at work on the street. This proved a popular and contagious pursuit. By the last class, everyone was taking pictures of everyone else, providing some grounding in portraiture at night, a welcome relief from cityscapes and abstracts.
“It was thrilling to watch the student work progress in sophistication from the first class to the last.”
The Center for Documentary Studies is among the cosponsors for a Duke Performances artist residency at Duke University hosting The Civilians, the nation’s foremost investigative theater company. The New York-based theater company will return to Duke for a residency from January 19-29, 2017, conducting research and interviews for a new play about charter schools written by playwright Ethan Lipton and directed by Steve Cosson. The previous residency in Fall 2016 featured artist talks and classroom conversations with Steve Cosson, the theater group’s creative director, as well as performances of The Undertaking, a creatively staged investigation of death written by Cosson.
In addition to classroom conversations and workshops with CDS, MFA|EDA, and other Duke students, the 2017 residency will enable The Civilians to take on a unique documentary theater project, focusing on the impact of charter schools in North Carolina as a way to explore the privatization of US public education. The company will interview students, educators, parents, and administrators at both charter schools and public schools, as well as education policy experts, activists, and organizers. A culminating workshop reading, to be held on Duke’s campus, will offer a dramatized first look at some of the research gathered, and a glimpse of what the project will eventually become. This is a rare opportunity to engage with theater-makers as they construct a piece from the ground up — all while grappling with one of the biggest issues of our time.
Ethan Lipton writes, “I’m thrilled to be working with the Civilians on a theater piece that explores charters and the privatization of US public education. I’m especially excited to be doing this at Duke, and that we won’t just be bringing research to North Carolina — we’re actually doing the research there, making a piece with North Carolinian DNA that we will develop at a North Carolinian institution. I’m passionate about education and can’t wait to see what we learn. I’m also excited to share with Duke and its audience our creative processes—I say ours because I have my process, and Steve Cosson and the Civilians have theirs, and this is the first time we’re working together. We’re going to be building this thing from the ground up, and it should be a fascinating opportunity for all of us.”
This residency is made possible by Duke Performances, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts and the Council for the Arts Visiting Artists Program, as well as the Department of Theater Studies and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
On December 13, 2016, the website for the SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work—a collaborative documentary initiative between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Duke University—debuted. The documentary website is the product of collaboration between the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the SNCC Legacy Project, and Duke Libraries. The SNCC Digital Gateway tells the story of how young activists in SNCC united with local people in the 1960s Deep South to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community and transformed the nation.
In 2013, the SNCC Legacy Project (SLP) and Duke University formed a partnership to chronicle the historic struggles for voting rights and to develop ongoing programs that contribute to a more civil and inclusive democracy in the 21st century. SNCC veterans shaped the vision and framework of the SNCC Digital Gateway, and the website was made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They worked collaboratively with historians of the Movement, archivists, and students to weave together grassroots stories, digitized primary source materials, and new multimedia productions to bring this history—and its enduring legacy—to life for a new generation.
Using documentary footage, audio recordings, photographs, and documents, the site portrays how SNCC organizers, alongside thousands of local Black residents, worked so that Black people could take control of their lives. It unveils the inner workings of SNCC as an organization, examining how it coordinated sit-ins and freedom schools, voter registration and economic cooperatives, anti-draft protests and international solidarity struggles. The story of the Movement told on this website is one of unsung heroes: domestic workers and sharecroppers, young organizers and seasoned mentors, World War II veterans and high school students. The SNCC Digital Gateway is here to share their story—and to help continue their legacy of organizing for self-determination and democracy in the generations to come. We feel certain that the site not only provides an unprecedented and valuable window onto past civil rights struggles, but a valuable tool for all those interested in social change today.
In this new documentary website, you’ll find:
The SNCC Digital Gateway is a work in progress. It will continue to gain stories and fill out its content in the year to come.
Founded on the spirit, values, and actions of photographer Lewis Hine, the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) connects the talents of young documentary artists with the resources and needs of community-based organizations in the United States. Fellows focus primarily on issues of socially and economically marginalized children, adolescents, young adults, their families, and communities; develop collaborative projects with those individuals and communities; and explore the role of documentary work in effecting social change.
In the latest blog post from Lookout: Notes from the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program, 2016-2017 Hine Fellow Jenny Stratton shares impressions and reflections from her first few months working with Children’s Aid and Family Services of New Jersey.
“During this first month,” writes Stratton, “I have been thinking about the nature of trauma-informed photography and storytelling; how photography can be used to translate the complexities and dualities inherent in traumatic situations; how shared vulnerability has the power to produce strength. Lewis Hine defined a good photograph as ‘a reproduction of impressions made upon the photographer which he desires to repeat to others.’ I think about how impressions here might echo.”
Read the full blog post from Jenny Stratton here.
The Center for Documentary Studies offers Continuing Education classes year-round—in photography, video, audio, narrative writing, and other creative media. Registration is now open for Spring 2017 classes and workshops with a host of established, new, and online classes on offer, including a few hybrid on-site/online classes.
A complete listing of all Spring 2017 courses as well as registration information can be found here.
Classes set to begin in early January include Writing, Funding, and Legalese as well as The South in Black and White, among others. A number of new classes will be debuted this term, including Intro Seminar: Traditions, which examines traditions of documentary work through an interdisciplinary lens, and Podcasting for the People, a new class that will help students to conceptualize, create, and develop their own podcast.
Opening December 5, Center for Documentary Studies will host an exhibition of photographs from Post Mégantic, Michel Huneault’s 2015 Lange-Taylor prizewinning project on a small town in Quebec that was the site of Canada’s deadliest train disaster in 150 years. His project of remembrance garnered Huneault CDS’s prestigious Lange-Taylor Prize in 2015; the $10,000 annual award supports documentary artists involved in ongoing fieldwork projects that rely on both words and images. Click here for more information on the exhibition.
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.
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.”
More information on Michel Huneault and Post Mégantic, including a slideshow and short video
Along with other North Carolina podcasters, CDS audio director John Biewen will take the stage in Durham on December 1 for an evening of live performance, storytelling, and advice-giving. Biewen will represent Scene On Radio, the podcast from CDS that he created and hosts; Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer of Criminal, Anita Rao and Sandra Davidson of She & Her, and Steven Petrow of The Civilist will also take the stage to share their stories of documenting the untold, unexpected, inane, and profound, and to engage the audience in a dynamic conversation about podcasting and audio storytelling. *For those unable to attend the event, watch a live stream of the full event on the Center for Documentary Studies Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m.
Are You Listening? Four Triangle Podcasters Take The Stage
Thursday, December 1, 7 p.m.
Motorco Music Hall, Seated Show
723 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, North Carolina
Free Tickets** | Directions | Parking | Live Stream*
*Please note that while tickets to this event are free, attendees are encouraged to RESERVE A TICKET in advance. Attendees with reserved tickets must show up 30 minutes in advance of the show to secure reserved seating. At 6:30 p.m., any unclaimed seats will be made available to the general public.
CDS recommends Transgender USA, an exhibition featuring the photographs of Mariette Pathy Allen on view at the Power Plant Gallery through December 22. Allen has been photographing the transgender community for over thirty years, and has been a pioneering force in gender consciousness and gender variance. Her photographs and personal papers are being collected by the Archive of Documentary Arts and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Allen’s first book, Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them, was groundbreaking in its investigation of a misunderstood community. Her second book, The Gender Frontier, is a collection of photographs, interviews, and essays covering political activism, youth, and the range of people that identify as transgender in mainland America. It won the 2004 Lambda Literary Award in the Transgender/Genderqueer category. Her latest book, TransCuba, is available via Daylight.
The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years: one year, photos; one year, writing. The focus is on current or recently completed work (within the last two years) from a long-term project—fifteen images; fifteen to twenty pages of writing.
The upcoming prize competition will be for writing. The winner of the competition receives $3,000 and feature stories in Center for Documentary Studies’ print and digital publications. The winner’s work is also placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.
The 2016 prize, for photography, was given to Jessica Eve Rattner for “House of Charm,” a ten-year portrait of Lee, Rattner’s eighty-year-old neighbor in Berkeley, California. The essay explores, with delicacy and respect, Lee’s story of aging alone and questions cultural ideas around beauty, happiness, and mental health.
The 2015 prize, for writing, was awarded to Abbie Gascho Landis, a writer and veterinarian in Cobleskill, New York. In her essay, “Immersion,” Landis weaves personal experience into her investigation of native mussels and their freshwater habitats as one way of looking at water issues in the Deep South and elsewhere in the United States.
The winner will be publicly announced in June 2017.
Jeainny Kim (Trinity ’18) received a 2016 Summer Study in the Arts award from Duke University’s Council for the Arts, having been nominated for this honor by her DOCST 318S Photography Workshop instructor, MJ Sharp, and with the support of CDS’s faculty. Kim applied her award this past summer towards a Summer Residency in Photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, which she looks back on in full in this blog entry.
“I believe that growth as an artist and growth as a human being are synonymous,” said Kim of her residency. “The School of Visual Art Residency in Photography forced me to explore deep into myself, lending me insight that would then resurface in my pictures… Under the guidance of four core faculty, we witnessed our growth through daily one-on-one critiques and that of each other in group critiques. I cannot adequately describe to you the feeling of entering a community of incredibly talented people who share your love of and dedication to art. Here, I found wonderful friends and mentors who helped accelerate my growth as an artist.”
Kim presented an artist talk on November 4, 2016 at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library for her project, Welcoming Uncertainty: Portraits and Scanner Works, which is about welcoming uncertainty in life and in sexuality as an Asian woman attending a select university. The event it was sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Said Jeainny Kim of her project, Welcoming Uncertainty: Portraits and Scanner Works:
“I used to believe that portrait photography was a one-sided conversation. I was the listener, making images out of the emotions as given by my subjects. While photographing Matthew and Jason, I took a different approach. I wanted to get to know them better. In order to do so, my subject and I took turns asking each other seemingly mundane questions such as hobbies and favorite foods that through accumulation reveal a lot about a person. My role as a selective observer evolved to that of an active participant. Now, I come forward and meet them halfway, to greet emotion with emotion and equal vulnerability. Inside the studio, both my subject and I are given the rare chance to get to know each other deeply in a small pocket of time. When I ask someone to take a portrait of them, I am inviting them into my comfortable, private space. I ask for their trust in return for mine. Each portrait shoot leaves me brimming with raw, vibrating emotions so that even objects seem to have a strange energy about them. My scanner work is simply a product of this exchange of trust, a tangible outcome of my human interactions. In essence, creating my still lifes allows me to release these emotions and regain equilibrium. My scanner work and my portraits have this wonderful, complementary relationship that leaves me with solid artifacts of my thoughts and experiences. I want my pictures to feel usually familiar, with hopes that people will be able to experience the intensity that I feel with each human interaction.”