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From films to photos, Center for Documentary Studies’ fall programming is an eclectic mix

“Experiments From A Black Queer Feminist Future” is one of the exhibits currently on display at the Center for Documentary Studies.
“Experiments From A Black Queer Feminist Future” is one of the exhibits currently on display at the Center for Documentary Studies.

For the past five years, the Center for Documentary Studies (known more commonly as CDS) has presented Audio Under the Stars, an outdoor audio festival created by Jenny March and Elizabeth Friend. Featuring themes such as “Night and Day,” “Super/Natural,” and “Appetites and Desires,” the festival brings many in the Duke community and Durham together to lay out under the stars and listen to audio documentaries, pieces composed simply of sound unaccompanied by video.

“It’s a really unique, wonderfully Durham event,” said Wesley Hogan, director of the Center for Documentary Studies. “We had some really talented young people who had graduated from Duke [who] took some of our continuing education classes in audio documentary [and] realized there were a ton of people in the region who were both making audio ... and wanted to listen to it together.” 

Since its first event five years ago, Audio Under the Stars has grown from 50 attendees to over 400, all listening to documentaries together under the night sky. And while Audio Under the Stars is exclusive to the summer, the Center for Documentary Studies has countless opportunities for students this coming fall.

CDS presents exhibits at the Bridges House near East Campus, and is affiliated with the Power Plant Gallery on the American Tobacco campus. Both sites will feature CDS-related exhibitions in the coming months. One of those exhibitions is entitled “Abortion Diaries,” which will open at CDS this October, and Hogan believes it will be especially interesting for students studying medicine and health. 

“A women’s health doctor named Melissa Madera, who was hearing so many different stories from women and their patterns about whether to end a pregnancy that she created an anonymous audio upload site,”  Hogan said. “Her patients could call that number and leave their story about their abortion experience. … She started to make a podcast about it to provide some privacy as well as some complexity and nuance to the reporting.”  

The Power Plant Gallery will also feature a project entitled “Southbound,” which opens Sept. 6 and features the work of multiple photographers.

“The photographs are trying to help us imagine new narratives about the South,” Hogan said. “[It is] this is sort of a visual presentation that raises some of those same questions. How might we think about the ‘New South’ in a more complex visual way?”

CDS has also invited filmmaker Daphne Williams to screen her film “In a Perfect World,” a film which explores a black single mom’s struggle to escape cultural stereotypes. Hogan hopes members of the Duke community will be able to relate to the themes of the film. 

Another exhibit that will feature black artwork is “Experiments from a Black Queer Feminist Future,” by the Black Youth Project 100, which will run through mid-October. This is just a sampling of the many opportunities the Center for Documentary Studies is offering students this fall. Hogan stressed that there are endless reasons for students to attend CDS events. 

“Part of what the CDS does is make space for extremely busy and over-scheduled Duke students,” Hogan said. “Duke seems to us to be the only place to have an interface between working artists and many different documentary domains — film, photography, audio, writing — under one roof.”

For more information on the Center for Documentary Studies’ upcoming exhibits, visit

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Audio Under the Stars as a program run by the Center for Documentary Studies. Audio Under the Stars is independently run with support from the CDS. The article has also been updated to clarify the CDS' upcoming exhibition sites. The Chronicle regrets the errors.