Business student wins Dorothea Lange fellowship
By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
17 January 2001 | A Haas School of Business graduate student is this year's winner of the Dorothea Lange Fellowship, awarded for his photos of migrant workers in San Francisco's Mission District, as well as for his plans to further spotlight their lives and the roles they play in the American economy.
Peter Lemieux, 30, receives $4,000 to finance a photographic expedition back to the Mission District. There he plans to document the lives of urban migrant workers from the first morning light, through their day jobs and into their after-work hours. The Dorothea Lange Fellowship is awarded to a Berkeley faculty member, graduate student, or a senior accepted for graduate work at Berkeley, who demonstrates outstanding work in documentary photography and a creative plan for future work.
The fellowship is in memory of Dorothea Lange, known for landmark photographic work documenting farm families migrating West in search of work during the Depression. Lange worked with her second husband, Berkeley professor and labor economist Paul Taylor.
The Office of Public Affairs administers the Lange Fellowship. Lemieux's photos will go on display in mid-February in Moffitt Library.
"The first thing you notice is the quality of the photographs, which are visually compelling," said Matthew Lyon, assistant vice chancellor for public affairs. "This is a photographer who has the eye of an artist, but in this case it's married to the socially conscious intelligence of a true documentarian or sociologist.
"Lange would be incredibly proud," Lyon said. "The connections (to her work) are so perfect here. She was studying migrants, and Peter Lemieux is studing urban migrants in the West. And, he has the ability that few documentarians have, which is to take this work to a higher level and make it art.
Lyon noted that Lemieux's project, "looking at urban migrant workers struggling to make it in the midst of Northern California's glitzy dot-com world," offers an intriguing echo of Lange's work.
The slight and soft-spoken Lemieux, who earned bachelor's degrees in French and public policy from Duke University, said the urban migrant worker has been overlooked by the media in favor of farm laborers.
"All across America, these groups of (urban) migrants ... roof, paint, landscape, construct and re-construct urban America each day and do so with no workers' rights, sporadic employment and zero gratitude," the second-year student in the MBA program at Haas wrote in his fellowship application.
In their pursuit of the American dream, he wrote, they live on the streets, in shelters, cramped studio apartments or itinerant hotels. They eat free meals at churches, feed the pigeons, search for work, abuse drugs, listen to the radio or read the Bible.
"But no matter the differences in how these migrant workers go about their lives," Lemieux wrote, "the massive wealth-creating dot-com frenzy Ð represented on bus and billboard advertisement, in hip new cafes sprouting up and by trendy 20-something techies darting to and from their offices just blocks away Ð provides a stark contrast to this reality."
Lecturer Mimi Chakarova recommended Lemieux for the Lange award, having become acquainted with him in her documentary photography course at the Graduate School of Journalism.
"I am convinced that Peter shares Dorothea Lange's compassion and dedication to make a difference in communities that at times are forgotten by the rest of the world," she said in her letter of recommendation.
Lemieux founded a humanitarian organization to help isolated communities in the Amazon and worked for various relief organizations in Asia and Latin America, recording on film the work he witnessed and managed overseas. He is comfortable photographing in Latino communities.
He said he came to Berkeley to earn a business degree and to explore the university's documentary and photojournalism programs. "I want to explore social venture opportunities that can positively impact our world," Lemieux said. "This demands business savvy."
And maybe a camera lens.
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