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Founded in 1989, the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) was the country’s first institution dedicated to documentary expression as a mode of inquiry and catalyst for social change. CDS is today the preeminent place to learn, make, and share documentary across all mediums—photography, film, video, writing, audio, experimental and new media. A nonprofit affiliate of Duke, CDS is renowned for: innovative undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education classes; the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; curated gallery exhibitions; prizes for emerging and established documentarians; award-winning books; radio programs and the Scene on Radio podcast; and groundbreaking initiatives such as Literacy Through Photography, the SNCC Digital Gateway, and the Documentary Diversity Project.


The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University teaches, engages in, and presents documentary work grounded in collaborative partnerships and extended fieldwork that uses photography, film/video, audio, narrative writing, and experimental and new media to capture and convey contemporary memory, life, and culture. CDS values documentary work that balances community goals with individual artistic expression. CDS promotes documentary work that cultivates progressive change by amplifying voices, advancing human dignity, engendering respect among individuals, breaking down barriers to understanding, and illuminating social injustices. CDS conducts its work for local, regional, national, and international audiences.