Rieger Awards

The Jon Rieger Awards Program for Exceptional Graduate Student Work in Visual Sociology

The Jon Rieger Awards Program was created by IVSA to recognize outstanding graduate student work in visual sociology. Because outstanding visual sociological work can emerge through different disciplines and degree programs, Rieger Award nominations are encouraged not only from sociology, but also for graduate students in anthropology, design, art, education, communication, ethnic or gender studies, and related fields.

Two Rieger Program awards are made each year, one for an outstanding masters thesis or doctoral dissertation, and a second for an outstanding paper or project (for example, an image-rich documentary, an online gallery or blog, a community history, or social action initiative.)

To nominate an outstanding graduate student, review the call for nominations. The deadline for nominations is February 21 of each year.

Award winners in each category receive a certificate of merit from the IVSA, a cash prize of $200, and an invitation to publish digital representations of their work through the IVSA web site. Rieger Award winners are also eligible to apply for a Travel Stipend to attend the IVSA’s annual conference.


Jon Rieger on the Rieger Awards

Portrait of Rieger Steiger (Photo Courtesy of Ricabeth Steiger)Photo Courtesy of Ricabeth Steiger

Upon receiving my PhD at Michigan State University in 1971, I joined the faculty at the University of Louisville where I now serve as professor of sociology. My early involvement in sociological research was as part of a team studying the outmigration of rural youth in the remote western part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Ontonagon County. That project eventually refocused on rural community adaptations to social change. After years of engagement in this kind of longitudinal survey research, I developed an interest in visual approaches to sociological inquiry and eventually became one of the founders of the International Visual Sociology Association in 1980, serving as its secretary-treasurer for more than ten years. My first visual sociological study was of the persistent, but deceptive, popular image of rural residents across the U. S. Midwest as primarily agricultural, whereas, in fact, farming activity occupies only a small minority of the rural population in most places. My main scholarly contribution to the field, however, has been in pioneering a method for the study of social change that emphasizes multiple strategies of systematic visual documentation and repeat photography. The development of that method has drawn heavily on my continuing work in Ontonagon County, Michigan.

The Rieger Award has come out of my active participation in, and love of, the IVSA over all the time since our founding. From the earliest years, those of us in the IVSA leadership recognized that we needed to foster the development of young, visually-oriented scholars and researchers. Sponsoring an award to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement by graduate students would be an important means of strengthening and expanding our subdiscipline. It has finally become possible for me, through a small Naval Reserve retirement benefit, to endow such an award to be given each year at our IVSA meetings. I am thrilled to see the inauguration of this program.