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With this letter of heartfelt gratitude, joy, and fulfillment, we announce the close of the mutually enriching and wonderfully successful collaboration on the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography.

The past eighteen years of working among all involved with the biennial CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University have been both a source of pleasure and wonder. Having Alexa Dilworth at the helmediting these books with her expertise, dedication,and loveproduced editions that have been a tremendous success.

The Honickman Foundation leaves its association with the Center for Documentary Studies with the satisfaction and contentment found in sharing with community the talent, the insight, the imaginationand the incredible capacity for discovery of our prizewinning authors in crafting their stories and photographs. 

The eight prizewinners’ expressing and sharing their photographs of phases of daily living, of dreams and thoughts, led us to understand with our heart and soul that their accomplishments helped us to growand that we, as well as they, had the reward of fulfillment few people are blessed to realize.

We can only sincerely hope that those who follow us in creating first books of photography will find the excitement, honorand enchantment that is bestowed on all who realize in their lives—as we have in ours—new means of discoveryof reaching out to the world in fresh and innovative effortto teach, to share, to promote, to achieveand to endure.

Lynne Honickman, The Honickman Foundation

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The biennial CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography was conceived in 2000 by president of the Honickman Foundation, Lynne Honickman, and founding director of the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Iris Tillman Hill. The prize has been awarded to a total of eight photographers.

In the nearly two decades since we launched the inaugural First Book Prize in Photography competition—won by Larry Schwarm in 2002—the landscape of visual culture has experienced a series of revolutions that have radically changed how artists and viewers experience photography.

While the need to support the work of photographers who are pursuing ongoing long-form projects of creative or social importance is as relevant as ever, these pivotal shifts in how images are created, collected, and shared have led the First Book Prize partners to consider anew the best ways that our respective institutions will continue to support the work of photographers and find new and vital connections between fine art and reportage, fiction and nonfiction, personal reflections and public commentary.

Both the Honickman Foundation and CDS will continue to explore and expand on the unique and wonderful potential of extended visual narratives to convey poetic and cinematic “true” stories.

We are extremely proud of all of the winners of the prize and of each book they have produced:

Larry Schwarm, On Fire (2002)

Steven B. Smith, The Weather and a Place to Live (2004)

Danny Wilcox Frazier, Driftless (2006)

Jennette Williams, The Bathers (2008)

Benjamin Lowy, Iraq | Perspectives (2010)

Gerard H. Gaskin, Legendary (2012)

Nadia Sablin, Aunties (2014)

Lauren Pond, Test of Faith (2016)

The judges for the prize [see their words below] have been among the most significant and innovative artists, curators, and writers in contemporary photography—Robert Adams, Maria Morris Hambourg, Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, Deborah Willis, Sandra S. Phillips, and Peter Barberie.

The guest panelists on the prize selection committees have also been among the most esteemed members of the photographic community—Bill Burke, Joshua Chuang, Stacey D. Clarkson, Jim Dow, Taj Forer, Melissa Harris, John McWilliams, William Noland, Pamela Pecchio, and Hank Willis Thomas.

We would like to extend a very special thanks to our collaborators across the Duke University campus—Duke University Press and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library. The publication of Lauren Pond’s Test of Faith marked the eighth time that we joined together to produce a book and an exhibition, and to gather a collection of images for inclusion in the Archive.

The Honickman Foundation’s belief that the arts are powerful tools for enlightenment, equity, and empowerment, in concert with the Center for Documentary Studies’ commitment to the presentation of experiences that heighten our historical and cultural awareness, have made our collaboration on this important prize celebrating contemporary photography and the lasting power of the book a singular and significant one.

The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography has been a significant initiative of the Honickman Foundation and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University; it has been a great pleasure and honor to be involved in creating and administering this prestigious award, which has had such a profound impact on its winners, the photographic community, and the culture at large.

This prize would not have been possible without the tremendous vision and generous support of Lynne Honickman and the Honickman Foundation. Our collaboration has been a long and deeply satisfying one.

—Alexa Dilworth, Publishing and Awards Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

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“Most photographers want to publish a book, especially if well produced. The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography allows this to happen for one deserving artist, and at the same time helps all entrants by encouraging them to assemble and evaluate for themselves the best they’ve done (it’s the only judgment that will sustain them in the long run). Whoever receives the prize, everyone is brought a little closer to finding her or his assignment, whether in photography or some other way of caring.”
Robert Adams

“We find ourselves at a moment when photo books are as important as ever, because they are concrete statements of artistic vision, essential counterweights in the ‘Ocean of Images’ that we swim through every day. DIY photo books are one important expression of this need for paper and glue and composed ideas. The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize is another, and it is immensely valuable. It offers a serious platform for serious work by photographers who have not yet received the notice they deserve. I’m pleased and excited to be involved with the 2016 competition.”
—Peter Barberie

“I like what this prize is doing. I want to be a part of it.”
Robert Frank

“The power of the photographic book as a vehicle for the dissemination of subtly inflected ideas—of poetic visions that may be subversive, confounding, or even tragic—has only increased as electronic media have flourished, for the carefully composed and printed book is a form of permanence. If the book is good, it is an eloquent unit of cogency in the sea of randomness, a rock that survives the tides that erase the days. The purpose of the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is to make such books by bringing to light singular bodies of work by largely unknown photographers. Working outside the mainstreams of power and influence, these artists have important things to convey that would be unlikely to be seen or heard except through this inspired publication program. As society generally does not reward those who are more committed to their vision than to its promotion, the First Book Prize is invaluable: it is an open door for genius to come through.”
Maria Morris Hambourg

“There are so many excellent artists that have not had the opportunity to publish their work. What is so special about the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is that the work of the winning photographer is not just published, but published, designed, and produced beautifully. Another great aspect of this prize is that it pushes all of the applicants (not only the winner) to carefully evaluate and edit their work for presentation.

These days it is more difficult than ever for photographers to get their best work published. There are so many levels of bureaucracy and outside influences that one must normally deal with. The artist that receives this award is able to cut through all of that and publish their work in its true form. They don’t need to worry about not being commercial or trendy.

The brilliance of this award is that it is not only a great opportunity for the photographer who wins, but also a chance for all of us to enrich our lives by seeing new and powerful work. The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography allows a gifted photographer to realize his or her dream—and that is wonderful.”
Mary Ellen Mark

“I am very pleased, and honored, to participate in the First Book Prize competition. A photographer’s first book is an amazingly potent object. Today we are very casual about pictures: we see too many of them, in a way they have replaced words as our most significant form of communication. We see photographs in our cellphones, on the web; we see fewer of them in books, printed the old-fashioned way, on paper. The technology of the book is ancient and still has advantages—we can re-see the pictures at will, we can pick up the book and sit comfortably with it, we can read it in a certain order, we can contemplate what an author has written of the pictures—that contribute to the reverberant meaning of the pictures. Picture books, books of photographs, are not being lost to the digital revolution; if anything they have become only more meaningful, more treasured.”
—Sandra S. Phillips

“I am honored to have been invited by the Center for Documentary Studies and the Honickman Foundation to judge the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. This is a unique award and opportunity to observe and create new narratives. I respect the idea of the book and often re-read the photography books on my shelf. This award offers photographers a new way to share their work, their singular way of seeing, and encourages me to imagine what will follow. There is an absence of new voices in photography books; all of us need this prize to expand our experiences in looking and understanding.”
—Deborah Willis

Site Credits
Editor: Alexa Dilworth
Designers: Christopher Sims, Maggie Smith
Multimedia editors: Tory Jeffay, Joel Mora, Maggie Smith, and Jenna Strucko
Additional design, editing, and production: Whitney Baker, Hannah Colton, Matthew Fowler, Tory Jeffay, Caitlin Johnson, Jim Haverkamp, Joel Mora, and Sharon Pomranky

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