ABOUT THE 2004 FELLOW
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 Lange Fellowship.
"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 "extra."
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 news reports.
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.