Digital Documentary Photography: Education, Childhood, and Growth


Course Overview:

 Narrative storytelling has the power to help us understand each other and ourselves. When current events challenge us to think deeply and live differently, the "story" has the potential to influence thinking, change minds, and bring people closer together.  In this class, students will use content-driven, visual storytelling to investigate subjects that relate to our world today.  

The course starts with basic camera use, Photoshop, and digital darkroom techniques, moving later into audio-visual multi-media production. In the first half of the semester, students fulfill specific field assignments that teach the tools of visual imagery and communication. Students also explore ethical issues that face us as a result of the transient nature of images in the digital age. These two paths provide preparation for the second half of the semester. Each student will use documentary photography to tell individual stories that relate to our current situation. Students will select one topic to explore in greater depth.  This project will become a cohesive body of work presented as a final project. Theoretical examples could include an essential worker's profile, a life changed by COVID-19 (your own experience or someone else), anti-racism work, the economy, or something else that relates to this moment in history.  Collectively these projects will give us a glimpse into the current landscape of our world. 

 For ten years this course has taken students into the Durham Public Schools to build relationships and document the life of the school.  This year, DPS has chosen to start the year remotely, and so it is with sadness that I report that we cannot offer that experience this year.  However, while we will examine different story ideas, the process will be similar.  If potential students want to see the depth of the stories students have told in the past, see these websites:

 2019 Riverside High School:

2019 George Watts Elementary:
2018 Hillside High School:
2018 EK Power Elementary:
2017 Durham School for the Arts:
2016  KIPP Durham:
2015 Club Boulevard Elementary:
2014 YE Smith Elementary:
2013 & 2010:  EK Powe Elementary:
2012 Lakewood Montessori Middle:

Please Note:  This course requires that you have access to a DSLR camera. In an effort to make the course available to all students, the Center for Documentary Studies has a check out system and provides cameras to students who need them.  We will still do that this semester, but the current situation complicates the process.  If you need a camera and live on campus or if you live close enough to come to Durham, I will provide the camera to you in person.  I regret this, but if you take the class remotely and live too far away from Durham to come in person, you will need to have a DSLR that you can use for the semester.  Either way, we will teach you to use them as a tool for narrative storytelling!

Please email instructor Susie Post-Rust at to obtain a permission number.  Let me know where you will be this fall and why you are interested!

BELOW:  Website project from Fall 2018

student working


About the Professor:

Susie Post-Rust

Susie Post-Rust is a veteran magazine and newspaper photojournalist who spent more than two decades documenting the lives of people in more than twenty countries. Her passion throughout her career has been in-depth documentary projects that reveal small communities and the people who live in them. For more than ten years she worked for National Geographic magazine, while also contributing to LifeU.S. News & World ReportNewsweek, and the New York Times, as well as nonprofit charity groups, including World Vision, the North Carolina Food Bank, Food for the Hungry, and Compassion International. In 1986 she was honored with the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Coverage of the Disadvantaged in recognition of her photographic essay Jerry: A Troubled Mind, the story of one man’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Post-Rust has taught at Duke since 2006. Her courses enable Duke Students to engage with the community outside university. She works to impart the experience of producing in-depth visual storytelling to her students. Most of her courses are service learning and involve a component of giving back to the community.

She has an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia and a BSBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Post-Rust's work can be viewed at

Documentary photography as a tool for exploring public education in Durham. Learn digital techniques including camera function, Photoshop, ink-jet printing, audio capture and production of audio-visual slide shows. Discuss ethical issues that emerge as a result of digital photographic impermanence. Service-learning environment consisting of fieldwork photography in collaboration with community organization, culminating in an exhibit. Consent of instructor required.



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Instructor Consent Required

Curriculum Codes
  • EI
  • ALP
Cross-Listed As
  • ARTSVIS 212S
  • EDUC 209S
  • VMS 212S
Typically Offered
Fall Only