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    Watch: Short Docs from the 2017 Documentary Video Institute

    August 31st, 2017
    2017 Documentary Video Institute

    Students and faculty from the summer 2017 Documentary Video Institute, just after their public screening.

    The 2017 Documentary Video Institute brought 24 students from around the country for an immersive, weeklong training in video documentary. Led by six instructors, students worked in groups of four to produce short documentaries centered on the Hayti neighborhood, a historically African-American community near downtown Durham. The topics were pre-produced by CDS intern Autavius Smith, and students chose from a list of potential interview subjects.

    In a packed six-day schedule, in the classroom and out in the neighborhood, students learned technical skills, such as lighting, sound, and shooting; practical considerations, like interviewing technique and story structure; and video editing and post-production techniques. On Saturday, July 1, they showed their films at a public screening at the Full Frame Theater at the American Tobacco Campus. You can watch them below.

    1202 | Sara Colm and Dipankar Mazumder

    The house that Deborah Owens Parker and her mother, Sarah Owens, have lived in for generations is a keystone of their changing neighborhood, and a living album of their family’s memories.

    Aya Shabu: Mother, Dancer, Writer | Siobhan Chachere and Alec Himwich

    The multitalented writer/dancer/performer/historian Aya Shabu discusses her development as an artist and her Africanist approach to dance.

    Bull City Laced | Hunter Atkins and Samantha Norman

    For Jacques King and Daniel Campbell, Bull City Laced, their sneaker store in the heart of Durham, isn’t just a business; it’s the culmination of a vision.

    Bull City Made | Sarah Burdick and Chris Payne

    Akili Hester gives high-quality cuts and a love for his customers at his Black Wall Street Barber Shop, named for the proud history of Black-owned businesses in Durham.

    Hayti Legacies: Thank God for the Journey | Carolyn Green Boone, Kenneth Campbell, Glenda Clare, Meghan McDowell and Angie Vorhies

    A record of a remarkable evening celebrating a distinguished group of African-American women in their 80s, 90s, and 100s, who led local institutions and helped create Hayti and Durham as we know them today.

    Hear Me | Jaime González and Helen Smith

    Attorney and PhD-candidate Danielle Purefoy talks about her work in environmental justice, where she devotes her energies to ensuring that disadvantaged communities aren’t abused by industry and government.

    Jus10 | Ziad Munson and Abhi Sivadas

    Justin Ellis, who goes by the name “Jus10,” creates stunning works of mixed-media art while dealing with ADHD and depression.

    Nzinga Rising | Christina Biddle and Andrew Haas

    North Carolina Central University graduate Zuri Hester opened a popular restaurant near  campus, Nzinga’s, which she also uses as a community space to foster positive projects in the neighborhood.

    Pops | Christine Hall and Wilson Land

    Fred Bennett helped the North Carolina Central University basketball team win a national championship in 1989, and today he imparts to children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties his love of the game, and of life.

    Scratching the Wax | Mary Hughes Lee and Joan Plotnick

    Perry Tankard II is a DJ who’s played shows around the world, and whose initial plans for success included leaving Durham—but his Christian faith and the pull of his roots brought him back to a settled gig in his hometown.

    Where You From | Ron Berg and Christy Duggan

    John C. “Skeepie” Scarborough III, proprietor of two venerable black-owned Durham institutions—a nursery school and a mortuary—expresses his pride in the Hayti neighborhood and the city of Durham, which has an illustrious history of African-American entrepreneurship and community.

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      Listen: Short Audio Docs from the 2017 Hearing Is Believing Audio Institute

      August 31st, 2017
      2017 Hearing Is Believing

      Students and faculty from the summer 2017 CDS introductory audio institute, Hearing Is Believing.

      In July 2017, the fourteenth annual Hearing Is Believing audio institute took place at the Center for Documentary Studies. In this weeklong, intensive bootcamp, run by CDS Continuing Education, students learned the basics of creating short audio documentaries. They chose from a list of interview subjects who’d been contacted in advance (thanks to the work of CDS intern Autavius Smith), then, after a crash-course in recording techniques, they conducted a sit-down interview. The next four days were spent in the computer lab, as students edited their interviews down to the finished five-minute pieces seen below.

      The institute was led by CDS Audio Program director John Biewen, along with visiting instructor Audrey Quinn, a journalist and podcaster based in Brooklyn. Guest instructor Kaitlin Prest, who creates the Radiotopia podcast The Heart, inspired the students with a talk and a performance, and CDS Continuing Education Coordinator Marc Maximov taught the basics of the Hindenburg audio editing package.

      Capital L in Conversation | Luke Hirst and Xaris Martínez
      23-year-old composer Joaquin Javier Lopez produces beats and music samples on his laptop, and mixes them together to create an intimate musical conversation. Producers Xaris Martínez and Luke Hirst interviewed Lopez, also known as Capital L, in his bedroom studio, and created their own digital mixtape of the encounter.

      Finding the Sound of Magic | Jim Haverkamp and David Smart
      Josh Zaslow has worked as a pastry baker for ten years, but has played guitar far longer. Since high school, Josh has played in bands and composed his own music, but hasn’t really taken his musical ambitions seriously—until now.

      Learning to Fly | Koji Yahagi and Elizabeth Zwerling
      In the 1960s, Warren Wheeler was one of the first African-American pilots to work for a major commercial airline. He was also the first African-American to run his own airline. Today, at 73, he is working to inspire a new generation of pilots who face comparable obstacles to getting in the cockpit door. It’s an industry where some things haven’t changed in the past 50 years.

      Wheeler started Airolina in 2015. It’s a flight training program, complete with flight simulator, based in his small basement office at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham. He put the word out to local high school students that kids as young as 14 could enroll in the program for free.

      Lolethia Unplugged | David Balzer and Kate Skorpen-Claeson
      We all know that jazz musicians are known for their improvisation. Local jazz DJ Lolethia Underdue quickly abandoned the clarinet in high school after discovering she had no rhythm and was apparently tone deaf. But she loves music, and her ability to improvise is why you can hear her every weekday afternoon on Durham’s WNCU. That’s where she spins jazz tracks and delivers the weather. Ad-libbing and tenacity are elements of a work ethic she tries to instill in her broadcast students at a local university. On a recent steamy Monday afternoon in Durham, Lolethia invited us into her live studio and spun the tracks of improvisation that underscore her life.

      Paula! Play! | Carlyle Ellis and Seth Martin
      Last year, the White Rock Baptist Church in Durham celebrated its 150th anniversary. As a new generation plans the future of the church, an older generation worries about what is being forgotten. Producers Carlyle Ellis and Seth Martin spoke with Dr. Paula Harrell, White Rock’s well-known organist, who uses her tremendous talent to help her congregation remember.

      Tone Touch | Ali Gladstone and Joan Toohey Wesman
      Durham hip-hop artist Antonio Cowart is known professionally as Tone Touch. He’s a Christian rapper, but he wants his music to be for everyone, no matter their beliefs. He recently received a nomination for the Carolina Music Awards, and this summer he was a featured artist on Choice FM in Raleigh.

      What Keeps Me Going | Rene Barger and Hannah Taleb
      Bradley Simmons lectures on West African and Afro-Cuban music at Duke University. He spoke with producers Rene Barger and Hannah Taleb about his life as an academic, folklorist, and professional conga player.

      Without a Song | Ami Hudson and Maryanne Shanahan
      If people don’t know the same songs, they can’t easily sing together. Durham jazz vocalist and composer Lois Deloatch believes it’s important to have music and song in common.

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        Enjoy: Final Projects by Spring 2017 Certificate in Documentary Arts Grads

        June 19th, 2017

        From left: Trish Tolbert, Karen Healy, Rahima Rahi, Sydney Dye, Yulian Martínez-Escobar, James Matthews, Cyndi Briggs

        On May 24, 2017, seven CDS Continuing Education students graduated with a Certificate in Documentary Arts. They presented their final projects before an audience of friends, family, teachers, fellow students, and fans of documentary in the Full Frame Theater at the American Tobacco Campus. A reception followed in the Boiler Room outside the theater.

        The projects (collected below) included three videos, an audio piece, an oral history, a multimedia project combining audio and photography, and a photography presentation that included hand-sewn textiles.

        Congratulations to the graduates!

        Cynthia Briggs | The Book of John | Oral History

        In 2014, Cynthia Briggs discovered a treasure trove of mementos, photographs, and postcards saved by her long-deceased grandfather, John Briggs, who served in World War II. Like many men of his generation, he spoke little about the war, except for humorous anecdotes about practical jokes and his friendship with fellow soldiers. He arrived in Belgium in the fall of 1944, just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, one of the most significant and deadly engagements of the war, fought in bitter cold and snow. Assigned to an armored reconnaissance unit, his extremely dangerous scouting missions put him at the forefront of violence and trauma.

        A burning curiosity to better understand his experiences led him to undertake an oral history project, which grew from one conversation with a fellow WWII veteran to (at present) eighty interviews with WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War vets. The stories are archived at the New Winston Museum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and will soon be searchable online via the Oral History Metadata Synthesizer (OHMS) program, and available at the Library of Congress. Community partners include Hospice and Palliative Care’s We Honor Veterans program, Senior Services of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, area retirement communities, and Wake Forest University. Cynthia Briggs’ final project for the Certificate in Documentary Arts includes an autoethnographic audiovisual piece about the experience of creating these oral histories and developing enduring and meaningful relationships with veterans, as well as a longer-term plan for developing and disseminating this important research.

        Cynthia Briggs has a PhD in counselor education from Oregon State University and teaches in the Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Walden University. After finishing her dissertation, she realized that academic research and writing held little reward for her, so she turned her attention to memoir and creative nonfiction. This process unleashed her love of storytelling and listening, and eventually led her to CDS, where she gets to indulge and cultivate this passion. Thankfully, her current employer supports her creative endeavors, so she’s able to make soul-satisfying documentary work and also pay her bills.

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        Sydney Dye | Beehive | Video

        A “’90’s kid’s dream” is one of the terms used to describe a jumps course tucked away in a corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, woods. Beehive tells the coming-of-age story of the course’s creators, Isaac, Ethan, and Ben, who have spent their free time in high school either riding their bikes or constructing jumps to use with their bikes. The small section of woods they claim as their own is not just a place to improve their biking technique, it’s the glue of their friendship.

        Sydney Dye is a senior at Chapel Hill High School and will be attending Elon University in the fall to study cinema and television production. She has been creating documentary films for the past five years through an annual competition called National History Day. Her film Introducing Americans to America won first place at the 2016 National History Day competition, was a finalist at the All-American High School Film Festival in New York City, and screened at ALICEFEST, a celebration of women filmmakers, at the Full Frame Theater in March 2017.

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        Karen Healy | A Palette of Rust and Dreams | Audio and Photography

        A Palette of Rust and Dreams is a vignette of a North Carolina train journey as seen through the eyes of a romantic, nostalgic traveler. Anchored in the piedmont region of North Carolina, it explores the space between destinations, pairing captured moments of imagery and conversation as travelers bear witness to a world and landscape both ephemeral and historic. The selection shown today is from a larger collection of work of still photographs and audio recordings that will be exhibited at the Imperial Centre Arts Gallery in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, from January through May 2018.

        Karen Healy is a documentary photographer with a focus on portraiture and environmental landscapes. She has a BA in communications studies from the University of Massachusetts. She grew up in New England and moved to North Carolina in 1993 with her husband and two daughters. She raised her family in Chapel Hill, where she continues to live with her husband. This work was recently published in the online multimedia webzine Bit and Grain. Photographs from the project were also part of an emerging artists exhibition in the 2016 Click! Triangle Photography Festival.

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        Yulian Martínez-Escobar | Our Sunday | Video

        More than any other sport, soccer brings together people from different countries, professions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our Sunday follows four soccer players from Uruguay, Iran, Egypt, and the U.S., who have come together in Charleston, South Carolina, and bonded over their passion for soccer. They talk about their past, how they learned to play soccer, how they ended up in Charleston, and their shared experience on the soccer field, where they meet every Sunday. In the words of one of the players, Michael, the soccer field reflects “a microcosm of how the world should be.”

        Yulian Martínez-Escobar is an adjunct Spanish professor at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. His avid interests include languages, traveling, and culture, which have defined his artistic style. He first cultivated an interest in the fine arts in his native Colombia as an actor in his college theater company, and later went on to become a self-taught photographer and videographer. He especially enjoys capturing candid portraits of people he meets in his travels, from Scotland to Peru to Senegal and the Gambia. As an immigrant, he wants to explore and document the lives and diverse backgrounds of other people who have ended up in the United States.

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        James Matthews | Material Witness | Photography and Textiles

        Material Witness grew out of an attempt to document the large number of evictions in the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Photographs of roadside piles of possessions lacked immediacy, or a way for the viewer to connect with the evicted. So James Matthews began to col- lect the items left curbside—children’s toys, school books, kitchenware—and mounted them as an exhibit, simply hung on the wall. He was left with mounds of clothes and bedding, which he washed, cut up, and made into a quilt. In this way, he could document the personal and physical loss of the eviction, and trans- form the fragments into something useful, comforting, and sheltering. Each quilt represents a single eviction, and holds within it the personalities and stories of the people who were evicted.


        James Matthews studied photography at the Center for Documentary Studies, then went on to study folk- lore at UNC–Chapel Hill. He now lives with his family in Little Rock, where he is director of communications for the Episcopal Church in Arkansas and curates a small gallery that documents life in the city.

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        Rahima Rahi | Philosophy of Participatory Filmmaking | Writing and Video

        This project explores the effectiveness of participatory filmmaking as a theoretical framework and practical tool for confronting appropriation in the documentary arts. Her work is inspired and informed by the literary theory of Trinh T. Minh-ha, which focuses on themes of “transcultural interactions, the production and percep- tion of difference and intersection of technology and colonization.” The most recent iteration of her research practice is a combination of a written essay and clips from a community-based video project at El Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina, which highlights the stories of four transgender members of their LGBTQ program.

        Rahima Rahi’s (she/he/they) multimedia art functions as a continuous experiment with form, relationships, theory, and identity. Her work spans autobiography, collaborative social documentary, experimental video, installation, reflective/theoretical discourse, and text-based approaches. Here and elsewhere in her work, Rahi experiments with ways to effectively shift the power she holds as a filmmaker over to the community, while still offering participants the value of her creative and technical support. For Rahi, “the process is the reason for creation” of her autobiographical and bio- graphical experimental art. When practiced in a state of heightened vulnerability, the rituals of production ignite the possibility of healing, liberation, and the reclamation of power.

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        Trish Tolbert | Simple Dreams | Audio

        Simple Dreams is a Vietnam-era love story that offers an alternative to the stereotypical portrayal of veterans from that war. We meet a former Marine hospital corpsman, Bobby Shelly, and his wife, Sue, as teenagers, then as newlyweds in a small West Tennessee town. We follow twenty-one-year-old Bobby into a close-range battle, Operation Indiana, and its aftermath—weaving together choices made in the wake of that battle and the powerful ripple effect of those choices fifty years later. Simple Dreams is drawn from a documentary video, Bobby’s Gift, currently in production. It reveals the essence of a unique relationship: the resilience required for recovery, and the art of gratitude at the heart of healing.

        Trish Tolbert is the eleventh generation of a southern storytelling family that has farmed in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee for over three hundred years. Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, during tumultuous times, she carried her love of storytelling into her professional career with nonprofits, fundraising for great causes, and pioneering “storytelling as a fundraising tool” with the Nature Conservancy and other global organizations. Trish is now seeking work as a development communications writer or community outreach manager while growing her production and editing skills.

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          Listen: Short Audio Docs from the 2016 Hearing Is Believing Audio Institute

          May 15th, 2017
          2015 Hearing Is Believing

          Students and faculty from the summer 2016 CDS introductory audio institute, Hearing Is Believing.

          In July 2016, CDS Continuing Education held the thirteenth annual Hearing Is Believing audio institute, a weeklong, immersive audio boot camp. 25 students from around the country were guided by CDS audio program director John Biewen and visiting instructor Shea Shackelford, with presentations by guest speakers Tina Antolini, creator of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy podcast, and John Barth of PRX. Students chose from a list of music- or audio-related topics; gathered interview and ambient sounds; and learned audio editing techniques to assemble short documentaries. The results are below.

          Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray | Lesley Hoyt-Croft and Nicki Stein
          Throughout the summer of 2016, this country has been reeling in the wake of social injustice. As racial tensions swell, is it possible that something as simple as a song could help bring Americans together? Gospel singer Mary D. Williams thinks so.

          Derrick Ivey | Emily Alexander and Sally Hicks
          When actor Derrick Ivey portrayed a Durham leader of the Ku Klux Klan, he had to figure out how to go to an angry and uncomfortable place. Here he talks about the personal impact of spewing hatred onstage night after night.

          Girls Rock NC | Hillary Rea and Kathryn Wall
          Girls Rock NC is a summer music camp that doesn’t hide being a feminist organization that embraces all gender identities. Ninety-five teens and tweens pick up drumsticks and guitars to learn chords and write songs, but they also participate in workshops on self-defense, body confidence, and zine-making. Adult volunteers kick off a loud and noisy week with the hope that their infectious passion for Girls Rock will go viral.

          Hayti Sings the Blues | Paul Bieber and Jim Millay
          It took ninety-five years to build a vibrant, self-sustaining community centered on church, music, and financial independence—a city within a city. It took a freeway project to destroy it.

          Lorna’s Spiritual Journey | Keith Lawrence and Jonathan Stansell
          It would have been easy for Lorna Collingridge to give up on the church, a place of both refuge and anguish. But doing so would have robbed her of the joy of its rituals and history. Besides, she felt she could change what troubled her about the church—if only a little bit—through her presence and her music.

          Lorna composed all the music in this piece.

          Oasis with a Train | Graham Prichard and Nikolas Silva
          One evening a month during the summer, hundreds of people gather outdoors in Durham to listen to audio documentary pieces under the stars. Guided by a simple wish—to share good radio with friends—Jenny March and Elizabeth Friend have created a surprisingly popular series of summer happenings.

          The People’s Orchestra | Carolyn Davenport and Zoe Grueskin
          When Maya Jackson was a student at Durham’s Hillside High School in the 90s, the arts opened the door to the world beyond North Carolina. Today, she’s hoping music can open doors in her hometown and bring people together in a time of change.

          Saints and Sinners | Robin Miniter and Ebonie Thomas
          Saturday night sinners become Sunday morning saints each weekend in the South. In Durham, we hear from Marc Lee, radio host at the Juke Joint, and Reverend Larry Thomas at Union Baptist Church, about the tension that resides between bars and the blues, and gospel and grace.

          Sharing the Stage | Nicolas Eilbaum and Nathan Ratner
          For nearly twenty years, Brett Chambers’ open mic night has provided a place for musicians, poets, and other performers to share their talent with supportive and enthusiastic audiences. What has made this weekly Durham gathering a home to so many?

          Show Up and Sing | Katie Brown and Nora Ritchie
          Once a month, in a bar in Durham, Amelia Shull raises her conductor wand and 200 untrained voices respond in song. This PopUp Chorus performs hits that range from David Bowie to Michael Jackson—hits that just a few hours earlier the choristers may only have ever sung in the shower.

          Whoopin’ It Up! | Christy Baugh and Marie Bongiovanni
          Linda Cooper is a contra dance caller in the Triangle area of North Carolina. She’s passionate about the power of traditional dancing. And for thirty years she’s been bringing dancers and musicians together to “whoop it up!”

          You Can’t Google a Guitar | Conrad Fulkerson and Ben LoCascio
          For musicians, instruments often become extensions of themselves. This connection deepens when the instrument has been crafted, piece by piece, by their own hands. Luthier Ken Mitchell and his student, Knox Engler, recount their journey together to create a guitar.

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            Danielle Mayes Wins 2017 Louis Sudler Prize in the Creative and Performing Arts at Duke University

            May 15th, 2017

            Photograph by Danielle Mayes from “Forest Series.”

            Following a nomination by the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Danielle Mayes, a CDS student and visual and media studies major, has been awarded the prestigious Louis Sudler Prize in the Creative and Performing Arts—an annual prize at fourteen major universities. The prize is awarded to the graduating senior at each university who has demonstrated the most distinguished record of excellence in performance or creation in one of the following areas: music, theater, painting, dance, design, film, creative writing, and other areas of the arts.

            Mayes’s documentary studies classes at CDS spanned her interests in video, photography, multimedia production, and social change and activism. CDS instructor Katie Hyde’s Sociology Through Photography course “was the beginning of understanding visual knowledge for me,” Mayes says, “and instilled in me the meaningfulness of photography in the world.” A black-and-white film course with CDS instructor MJ Sharp helped Mayes rethink what the medium might allow her to explore. Under Sharp’s mentorship, Mayes produced five series of black-and-white photographs that are represented in her final capstone project, Whyt Noyz, a book of images, with text, that focuses on the narrative experiences of black people in the United States; scroll down to view a selection of those photographs.

            Read more about Danielle Mayes and see a gallery of her photographic works on our website.

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              Launch of the “SNCC Digital Gateway” Documentary Website

              May 15th, 2017
              The SNCC Digital Gateway website. Photograph courtesy of the Bob Fitch photography archive, ©Stanford University Libraries.

              The SNCC Digital Gateway website. Photograph courtesy of the Bob Fitch photography archive, ©Stanford University Libraries.

              On December 13, 2016, the website for the SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Worka 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:

              • Historic materials including documents, photographs, oral history interviews, and audiovisual material hosted in digital collections at repositories across the country
              • Profiles examining individuals’ contributions to the Movement
              • Events tracing the evolution of SNCC’s organizing
              • Inside SNCC pages unveiling the inner workings of SNCC as an organization
              • Perspectives presenting aspects of SNCC’s history from the eyes of the activists themselves
              • Map connecting users to the people who worked—and the events that happened—in a specific place.

              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.

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                Enjoy! Student work from Hal Goodtree’s Night Photography class

                May 14th, 2017

                Fall 2016 Documentary Night Photography class. Pictured from left: David Strevel, Ana Cruz, Olga Uzun, William Blaine, Brent Miller, Laurie Miller, Kenneth Zeitler, instructor Hal Goodtree, David Persoff.

                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.”


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                  Support a Storyteller. Help Change the World.

                  May 14th, 2017
                  Workshop with Syrian girls in Northern Jordan, 2015, by Laura Doggett

                  Media workshop with Syrian girls in Northern Jordan, 2015, by Laura Doggett

                  “I have seen how the tools of documentary arts give girls a sense of agency and power over their own stories and dreams. I am constantly thrilled to see the girls’ amazement as they share their artistic work with the public and realize the value their voices and visions carry in opening up channels of
                  understanding, dialogue, and change.” –Laura Doggett

                  For 25 years our work at the Center for Documentary Studies has been built around the belief that a story, well told, can open possibilities for meaningful change—in the world at large, in audience and storyteller alike—by deepening insight, perspective, and understanding. 

                  That spirit is exemplified by Laura Doggett, one of our Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows and a graduate of Duke’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program. Laura has worked for years with girls from communities under stress in the United States and abroad, creating opportunities for their voices to be heard—through photography, video, writing, and audio. Recently, she created media workshops for Syrian girls living in refugee camps in Jordan, work she began at the Za’atari refugee camp while she was a Duke University Felsman Fellow. During her tenure in Jordan, Doggett’s pupil Khaldiya Jibawi directed the film Another Kind of Girl, which has been featured in several film festivals worldwide, and will be screened at Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. 

                  Visit Waves of Childhood and Reality’s Stage to see examples of the powerful work produced by Khaldiya and other Syrian girls in Jordan and to learn more about Laura Doggett’s work there.

                  The Center for Documentary Studies is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization affiliated with Duke University. Find out more about supporting our mission around the documentary arts here.

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                    Fall 2016: Work by CDS Undergraduate Faculty

                    May 13th, 2017

                    “View From Studio Window. (10:47–10:48 a.m.).” Photo by Lisa McCarty from her “Lumen” series.

                    Notable recent news and events featuring Center for Documentary Studies undergraduate faculty include the following; see the CDS undergraduate education Tumblr for more information and updates:

                    Kelly Alexander received a Duke University Council for European Studies Fellowship for 2016–2017 for her project “Of Truffles and Trash: The New Social Economy of Food Waste in Brussels, Belgium”

                    + John Biewen released a “Story of Storymakers” video, produced by Natalie Robles (former CDS student), with material from Ian McClerin

                    + Lana Garland was awarded a Fulbright Specialist trip to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda

                    + Jaki Shelton Green and Chris Sims were named Teaching for Equity Fellows at Duke for 2016–2017

                    + Alex Harris spoke at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta on September 10 and will speak at the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art on November 1 as part of their Meet the Maker Series

                    + Lisa McCarty’s “Lumen” project featured in Oxford American’s “Eyes on the South” series

                    + Charlie Thompson was interviewed on UNC TV Bookwatch for Border Odyssey and directed a film for Farm Aid–Homeplace Under Fire–that was screened at the USDA

                    + Tom Rankin interviewed Bill Ferris about The South in Color at the Nasher Museum of Art

                    + MJ Sharp was an Artist-in-residence at Power Plant Gallery for July 2016

                    + Chris Sims was named a Bacca Fellow at the Language, Arts and Media Program at Duke and a DAAD Fellow at the Zentrum fuer Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam, Germany, Summer 2016

                    + Mary Williams performed “Music from the Movement” concert as part of the National Folk Festival in Greensboro on September 18

                    + Mike Wiley Performed “One Noble Journey” on September 22 at the Hayti Heritage Center

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                      Watch: Discussion with PRI Radio Host Marco Werman and Photographer Alex Harris

                      May 13th, 2017
                      Marco Werman and Alex Harris

                      Marco Werman and Alex Harris

                      In November 2015, a discussion with Marco Werman—Duke University alumni, journalist, and host of Public Radio International’s show, The World—and Alex Harris—Duke University professor, CDS co-founder, and acclaimed documentary photographer—took place at Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics. Together, the two looked back at Werman’s early work in journalism and documentary storytelling as an undergraduate student in Harris’s “American Communities” course, and explored how that experience shaped Werman’s approach to telling other people’s stories.

                      Watch the full discussion below.

                      This event was co-sponsored by the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Duke Performances, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.

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