Peg Skorpinski photo
show of Andrew Moisey's photos
When University of California, Berkeley, graduate student
Andrew Moisey began taking a camera on his visits to his younger
brother's fraternity, he told himself he was documenting the likely
decline of his newly pledged brother.
Now, his efforts to record fraternity
life over the course of three years have earned him the 2004 Dorothea
"Other photographers might try to do this
project as (older) adults, looking down and back at kids they
vaguely remember being," he said. "As I photograph now, I am going
through the same stage of life my subjects are, at the same college,
with similar dreams and similar problems."
An Oakland resident, Moisey, 24, said
he has shown his shots to the fraternity members and that they
have no objections to his work. "I like hanging out with them,
and they trust me," he said.
His work won the apparent endorsement
of the fraternity's online alumni newsletter last year when it
published a handful of his photos and an essay by him in a web
In the essay, Moisey mentions joining
the fraternity brothers for dinner, for singing at a bar, and
for their trip in a rented Winnebago to the Cal/USC football game.
He admits that he didn't originally know much about fraternities
beyond stereotype, hearsay, attending some weekend parties, and
Moisey took up photography as a Berkeley
undergraduate to learn more about the camera as part of his double
major in film and rhetoric now he always carries a camera
with him. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on documentary photographer
Walker Evans and is now a Ph.D. candidate in the film track of
the Department of Rhetoric.
"I sort of fell in love with this way
of thinking and this way of creating that I just didn't understand,
that came from inside and within," he said about photography.
When he began taking pictures about three
years ago, Moisey retrieved an old Pentax K1000. It had been a
Christmas gift when he was 12 and had never been used. He has
since bought a Mamiya 6 with a quiet shutter and a square format
for his documentary work, which has ranged from life on the bus
to happening in a laundromat where he once worked, and more.
Moisey said he is interested in photographing
a wide range of subjects but is particularly curious about the
structures of patriarchy in our society and how ritualized societies
such as fraternities fit into a "cult of modern masculinity."
Although some people oppose fraternities,
many consider them an important college-age stepping stone on
the way to a successful and influential career. "I was a photographer
who wanted to know what the future of the American upper class
did inside those houses," Moisey said.
Toward that end, he said, he plans to
use his fellowship funding to buy supplies and gear needed to
keep shooting pictures at the fraternity and probing deeper into
daily life there. Gaining access and acceptance in the house has
been a prime hurdle, one he was able to overcome through his sibling
connection. Now many of the current brothers don't recall a time
when Moisey wasn't hanging around with his camera.
"What I'm trying to figure out is what
makes fraternity brothers different from other college students,"
he said. Moisey intends to assemble his best work in a book that
tells this complex story.