Spring 2021 CDRP/CIPS Documentary Photography Award Winners

The Center for Documentary Research and Practice (CDRP) and the Center for Integrative Photographic Studies (CIPS) are thrilled to announce the recipients of the first annual IU Documentary Photography Awards.  The competition called for portfolios that inspire change by addressing topics that are socially significant but it allowed for an array of approaches: chronicles of real world events, situations, and environments as well as attention to everyday life.  The winners will each receive a $400 prize and have their work exhibited on the CDRP and CIPS websites.

The first undergraduate recipient of the IU Documentary Photography Award goes to Wells Douglas for “Daisy.”  Douglas’s portfolio combines a straightforward documentary impulse—recording moments from a life shared with Daisy—with a touching kind of intimacy.  The first shot, of Daisy’s face illuminated by her laptop screen, serves as an effective overture for the images that follow.  Highlights include a close-up of Daisy’s hands at work, capturing the fact that Daisy’s life is about working with, shaping, transforming, materials; a portrait of Daisy looking down and away from the camera, conveying the exhaustion mentioned in the photographer’s introductory text; a dual portrait of the photographer (represented only by a hand) and Daisy relaxing by a river, with the warm evening light reflecting the warmth of their relationship.  A photograph of Daisy lying down, the photographer’s presence indicated by a pair of shoes in the grass, provides another example of how ordinary things carry special meaning in a shared life—and how art may preserve such a message and show that the mundane may sometimes border on the miraculous.  Wells Douglas’s portfolio is a tribute to love and how it heightens and colors the everyday, the way Daisy’s work also adds color to the lives of her clients.  A beautiful, often poetic achievement.

The first graduate recipient of the IU Documentary Photography Awards goes to Zach Kaufman for “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” a highly ambitious project that explores Indiana communities in transition.  The portfolio as a whole is intelligent and intimate, with very accomplished black and white photographs that lend a poetic veneer to the portfolio as a whole.  The portraits and landscapes reveal both appreciation and knowledge of the people and places along the river.  Because the scope of the project is so far-reaching, the photographs have a fairly loose relation to each other, connected by the winding Wabash River and Kaufman’s sense of his subjects’ shifting places in contemporary American society.  A number of photographs stand out in the portfolio: the three gender-ambiguous kids staring down the camera; the “offer of a fish”; the brackish waters in the bridge picture ironically conjuring Monet’s water lilies; and the foregrounded cars driving away from the factory that was once the center of the town.  Kaufman attends to displays of patriotism respectfully and to the textures of his materials beautifully—the doubling of muscle/skin/sinew with textiles is particularly striking in image 8.  The portfolio is intense, thought-provoking, and visually arresting while at the same time leaving plenty of room to expand into something even larger.

Joshua Malitsky, Media School
James Kelly, Media School
Elizabeth Claffey, Photography
Christoph Irmscher, English
James Nakagawa, Photography