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Joshua Dudley Greer: 2016 Finalist

Early settlers imagined the New World as a pristine, uninhabited wilderness—a landscape of unparalleled beauty, magnitude, and possibility. Yet the driving impulse of expansion was rarely to commune with nature, but more often a desire to carve a garden from these wilds and create a new civilization, unique from all others. Lines began to be drawn, initially through agriculture and settlements, then railways and cities, and eventually the road.

Today the American landscape is carved up by nearly 4,000,000 miles of roadways that lead us from the city to the wilderness and all spaces in between. The Interstate Highway System in particular has permanently altered the way we experience the surrounding landscape. By leveling mountains, mowing down forests and circumventing rivers, we have created an easily accessible, anonymous space that allows us to enact our fantasies and freedoms, but is also forcing us to reconcile a new and deeper understanding of place. While some may view this infrastructure as nothing more than a necessary evil of modern existence, it can also be seen as a manifestation of our collective consciousness—our failures and aspirations. The ideas of mobility, prosperity, community, and growth, cornerstones of the American Dream, still seduce many of us to strike out on the road in search of something beyond what our daily lives provide. For some it may be a job or a lifestyle, for others an escape. Whatever the motivation may be, we are all visitors somewhere.

The photographs that comprise Somewhere Along the Line have been made on an extensive series of road trips taken throughout the United States over the past six years. Drawing on references from history, film, and literature, the contemporary American landscape is depicted as a stage where narratives play out and opposing forces intersect. The boundaries that line this landscape, whether real or imagined, are examined by looking at the separations between public and private space, privilege and need, the individual and the collective, and the countervailing ideas of home and escape. The sites and people depicted are all united by the influence of the road, by our shared history, and by my attempts to reconcile the past with the present. —Joshua Dudley Greer

Jamie Diamond: 2016 Finalist

Mother Love and the Reborn Doll explores the Reborn community, an international group of self-taught female artists who hand-make, collect, and interact with hyper-realistic dolls. Practitioners are divided principally into makers and collectors, who meet at annual conventions to buy and sell their work. Doll purchases are considered adoptions, and outside of the conventions take place online via the maker’s eBay nurseries.

After initially struggling to make contact with the community, I decided to go to the first annual Reborn convention, which took place in North Carolina in 2011. This was my introduction to the Reborners. The community is much misunderstood and has, over time, been exploited in the press—their practice deemed by some as curious or fringe behavior. As a result, they were understandably suspicious of outsiders bearing cameras. After the convention, I spent the following year traveling across America investigating and recording their practice, working with makers and collectors, and photographing them with their dolls in their homes.

As I got to know more about the Reborners themselves, I became fascinated by their practice—not only in the degree of artistry involved in their doll making, but in their engagement with and interest in the extended mother-child paradigm. The relationship between artifice, representation, reality, and memory is an essential part of this work. After over a year of collecting material, I found the dolls, the totems of the community’s shared behavior, created with such skill and dedication, to be the most fascinating aspect. Subsequently, I realized the only way I could ever fully understand the community and the art making that went into it, was to become a Reborner myself. I spent months travelling across the country learning the craft from the most skilled Reborn doll artists, and documented the process in the first part of the Mother Love series, Nine Months of Reborning.

Two related bodies of work from the Mother Love series explore the process of artistic customization from a common source material. The Amy Project captures the way in which artists individually interpret and idealize the same doll and the Jesus Series explores the presentation of an artist’s personal, ideal representation of the singular Christ Child figure. ­—Jamie Diamond

Cody Bratt: 2016 Finalist

Growing up in the California foothills, I was captivated by the Gold Rush ruins and historical marks left on the land. As an only child raised in a rural area, I spent much of my childhood alone, left with plenty of time to indulge in imaginative, fictional histories for these lost places that entranced me.

Love We Leave Behind consists of two intertwined threads: landscapes and portraits. The combination represents and merges two distinct image making processes. The landscapes were made by traveling—day and night—through thousands of miles of seemingly unbound spaces in California and Nevada. In contrast, the portraits were shot in short (one to two hour) sessions in small and confined spaces; the only variables being the room, the model, and myself.

Once home, I tried to find image pairs which conversed with each other and allowed for the exterior and interior elements of both to blend together. A similar thing occurs when we actually   inhabit a space—we aren’t independent actors—we’re fused with the space while we’re present. I wanted to ask two questions: As we build places into the land and pass through them, what sorts of marks do our interior emotional lives leave behind? And, as those places age and disappear, does that emotional residue continue to persist in a detectable fashion?

In the end, by fusing both documentary and fictional narrative approaches, I aimed to open enough ambiguity in the realness of the story for the answer to those questions to be dependent on the viewer’s own relationship with the images. In other words, it’s likely that our longevity is entirely dependent on the stories we choose to tell ourselves about the places we’ve been. —Cody Bratt

Lauren Pond Wins 2016 First Book Prize

“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.”
—Peter Barberie, judge, 2016 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Pastor Randy “Mack” Wolford poses for a portrait inside his church, the Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus, which opened in 2010, Matoaka, West Virginia, November 2011. Photograph by Lauren Pond.

Congratulations to Lauren Pond, a photographer based in Columbus, Ohio, who was selected by curator Peter Barberie of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to win the eighth biennial First Book Prize in Photography for her color series Test of Faith that document, as Pond writes, “a family of Pentecostal Holiness serpent handlers that I have photographed since 2011.

“Serpent handlers, also known as ‘Signs Followers,’ hold a literal interpretation of a verse in the New Testament’s Gospel of Mark, which states that, among other abilities, true believers shall be able to ‘take up serpents.’ Despite scores of deaths from snakebites and the closure of numerous churches, there remains a small contingent of serpent handlers devoted to keeping the practice alive.

“Who are the serpent handlers? What motivates them to keep going? These are questions that I sought to answer when I first traveled to West Virginia and met Pastor Randy “Mack” Wolford, one of the best-known Signs Following preachers in the region. I spent the following year getting to know him and his family, but the course of my project changed dramatically in May 2012 when Mack, then forty-four years old, was bitten by a rattlesnake during a worship service I attended.”

Pond photographed the events that followed and has continued her relationship with Mack’s family. As she says, “I no longer see my images as being about serpent-handling practice and culture. Instead, they serve as a record of my rich friendship with the Wolfords, our shared experiences, and the valuable insights they have given me into the tenets of their faith—namely, forgiveness and redemption.”


Mack Wolford’s mother, Snook, chats with a customer at the cafe where she works with Mack’s wife, Fran, Bramwell, West Virginia, September 2013. Photograph by Lauren Pond.

First Book Prize judge Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art selected Pond’s photographs to win from a group of nine finalists because her “long-term documentation of the Wolford family emerged as a unique, cogent, and powerful topic for publication. Lauren Pond plunges us into the hothouse atmosphere of their faith. Through her photographs I can almost feel the physical strain of Mack’s worship, and I long to hear the song that his mother, Snook, sings as he accompanies her on guitar. Who are these purposeful, vibrant people so different from myself? Test of Faith commands this question and prompts me to consider the basis and limitations of my own worldview.”

Pond receives a grant of $3,000, inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of the prizewinners, and publication of a book of photography. Barberie will write the introduction, and Pond an afterword, to the book, which is forthcoming in November 2017 from Duke University Press in association with CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Pond will also have a solo exhibition in Duke’s Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery, and the photographs will then be placed in the library’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Lauren Pond, a documentary photographer who specializes in faith and religion, is currently the multimedia content producer for the American Religious Sounds Project within The Ohio State University’s Center for the Study of Religion. She also manages an art gallery and works on freelance projects across the country. She received her Master of Arts degree in photojournalism from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication in 2014, and bachelor’s degrees in journalism and art from Northwestern University in 2009. Pond’s photographs have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and have been recognized by the Magnum/Inge Morath Foundations, the Lucie Foundation, FotoVisura, Photo District News, College Photographer of the Year, and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, among others. She has spoken about her work at universities and conferences across the United States.

The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is awarded by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Honickman Foundation.


Extended Deadline: September 22

We’ve had a lot of calls and emails about the deadline, so in response, we’ve decided to build in a little more time to help applicants get their entries in. The new deadline is September 22, 2016, by midnight, EST.

There is then a seven-day grace period to complete entries for applicants who start their submissions before the deadline on September 22. Please write Caitlin Johnson, caitlin.johnson@duke.edu, with any questions.

[Photo from your book here.]


From Aunties: The Seven Summers of Alevtina and Ludmila by Nadia Sablin, 2014 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


From Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene by Gerard H. Gaskin, 2012 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Iraq Perspectives 1 Windows

From Iraq | Perspectives by Benjamin Lowy, 2010 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


From The Bathers by Jennette Williams, 2008 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Gabriel Stutzman carries eggs into the house on his familyÕs farm near Kalona, Iowa. Gabriel is the youngest of nine children to be raised by his Beachy Amish parents on the farm.

From Driftless: Photographs from Iowa by Danny Wilcox Frazier, 2006 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


From The Weather and a Place to Live: Photographs of the Suburban West by Steven B. Smith, 2004 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


From On Fire by Larry Schwarm, 2002 winner, CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


Three Days Left to Enter!

“From the moment I started making the photographs that became Driftless, I said I was going to make a book. And it’s such a difficult thing to do. . . . I put that in front of me; it was my goal. When I look back it almost seems an insurmountable task, but I got lucky and it happened.”—Danny Wilcox Frazier, 2006 prize winner

Want to be the one telling this story? Get your application in! There are only a few days left until the 2016 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography competition entry period ends (deadline is September 15). (Click here to learn more about entering the competition.)

For those needing a little extra time: There is a grace period through midnight (EST) on September 25 for applicants who started their submissions before the deadline. Please write Caitlin Johnson, caitlin.johnson@duke.edu, with any questions.

2016 FBP.Document spread

Peter Barberie, the Brodsky Curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be this year’s prize judge. Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of the Aperture Foundation, will chair the selection committee that chooses the finalists

Books in the First Book Prize in Photography series are copublished by the Center for Documentary Studies and Duke University Press.

Winners of the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography receive a grant of $3,000, publication of a book of photography, and inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of the prizewinners. The winner also receives a solo exhibit and the photographs are then placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts in Duke University’s Rubenstein Library.