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



The deadline for nominations for the IVSA Awards Programmes is extended to March 1, 2024. Award recipients will be notified in July by the IVSA President and the award ceremony will take place at the IVSA 2023 conference.

IVSA members can make nominations. If you are an IVSA member please login to your account. If you are not yet a member please consider joining the IVSA.

The Jon Rieger Awards Program was created in 2012 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 Feb 16, 2024.

Award Honors

Rieger Award winners in each category will receive a certificate of merit from the IVSA, a cash prize of $1000 USD, and an invitation to publish digital representations of their work through the IVSA web site. Rieger Award winners will also receive a fee waiver for the 2023 conference to receive their award and present their work, and a complimentary year’s honorary membership in the IVSA.

Eligibility and Nominations 
Past award winners

Jon Rieger on the Rieger Awards

Photo credit Reiger SteigerUpon 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.


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


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