Dorothea Lange

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Application deadline November 30, 2009

Dorothea Lange Fellowship

Project proposal A few years ago James decided he wanted to join a fraternity. As his older brother, I advised him that this wasn't such a good idea. "If you join this thing, James," I told him, "your life is going to be driven by your testosterone." He assured me this wasn't going to happen, but he told me he was going to join no matter what—all his dorm friends were doing it.

I didn't really know much about fraternities when James and I had our conversation—just what I'd learned through hearsay and news reports and going to their weekend parties. Secretly, however, fraternities deeply intrigued me. Many people object to them, yet they remain clandestine and ritualized societies of brotherhood, whose members traditionally ascend to positions of high power in the business and political spheres of our society. I was a photographer who wanted to know what the future of the American upper class did inside those houses. So every time I went to visit my little brother I took my camera with me.

It took a long time, but eventually I gained the trust of James's new brothers. They permitted me to photograph as they went about their daily lives, their weekend parties, and their induction rituals. At the same time, in my rhetoric classes, I was and have been learning about the structures of patriarchy that form the cultural basis of our society. And I have found myself in a unique position as a photographer—I can observe and record just how much this cult of modern masculinity actually forms the basis for the patriarchal structures I have since been studying here at Berkeley. It is to this end that I want to direct my work.

I am a truly devout student of the history of documentary photography. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Walker Evans, and for this project I have studied and been inspired by the work of W. Eugene Smith and the early Life photographers who faithfully tailored the form of their pictures to meet the spirits of their subjects. However, there is something that I feel makes my work different—I am photographing my own peers. Other photographers might try to do this project as adults, looking down and back at kids they vaguely remember being. As I photograph now, I am going through the same stage of life my subjects are, with similar dreams and similar problems. Mine is a project that no photographer has attempted before—and no one is in a better position to faithfully record the spirit of my subjects' lives than I am now.

—Andrew Moisey
 



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