From its very first days, the Center for Documentary Studies has been engaged in supporting, promoting, and teaching literary forms that reveal the range and power of the documentary arts. In creating the Lange-Taylor Prize in 1990, for instance, and DoubleTake magazine in 1995, we established a commitment to giving words and images equal weight in renderings of the world as it is. We’ve never wanted to narrowly define what “documentary” means when it comes to writing, or any other medium. Again, and for instance, the editor’s note in the first issue of DoubleTake described it as “a home that welcomes poets and novelists, photographers and journalists, short-story writers and essayists . . . who recognize the power of narrative to reveal and then to transform.” That democratic spirit infuses our work here at CDS. But if pressed on how one might broadly define a “documentary writer,” we might say something like this: Someone who goes out into the world with curiosity, collects stories—through fieldwork, research, and personal experience—and then creates artful nonfiction that engages with the world, that connects with and invites the reader in.


+ We’ll be announcing the 2015 winner of our Documentary Essay Prize in Writing later this summer.

+ Check out Vanishing Point, the pop-up online magazine produced by undergrad and grad students in Documentary Publishing, one of our numerous writing-based courses.

Image: From the 2008 series “Deconstructing the Maze,” a collaborative art project for which 2013 CDS Documentary Essay Prize winner Rachel Andrews contributed writing. Photograph by Dara McGrath.