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UC Berkeley business student wins Dorothea Lange fellowship for photos taken in Mission District
17 Jan 2001

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

  Peter Lemieux photo

"Dreams," Cesar Chavez St., San Francisco 2000
Peter Lemieux photo

(More photos are available on the Dorothea Lange Fellowship web site.)

Berkeley - A University of California, Berkeley, 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 and 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 award was announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 17) by UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs, which administers the fellowship.

The fellowship is awarded to a UC Berkeley faculty member, graduate student, or to an undergraduate senior accepted for graduate work at UC Berkeley who demonstrates outstanding work in documentary photography and a creative plan for future work. Lemieux is a graduate student at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Dorothea Lange was known for her landmark photographic work documenting farm families migrating West in search of work during the Depression. She worked with her second husband, Paul S. Taylor, who was a UC Berkeley professor and labor economist.

As a tribute to his wife, Taylor established the fellowship at UC Berkeley in 1981, a decade and a half after Lange's death. The first award was given in 1982.

Lemieux's project looking at urban migrant workers struggling to make it in the midst of Northern California's glitzy world - teetering on the edge of an economic downturn - offers an intriguing echo of Lange's work.

"Lange would be incredibly proud. The connections (to her work) are so perfect here," said Matthew Lyon, UC Berkeley's assistant vice chancellor of Public Affairs. "She was studying migrants, and Peter Lemieux is studying 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 described Lemieux's photos as "visually compelling. This is a photographer who has the eye of an artist. But it's also married to the socially conscious intelligence of a true documentarian or sociologist."

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 Haas School's MBA program wrote in his fellowship application.

In their pursuit of the American Dream, he wrote, they live on the streets and 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 frenzy - represented on bus and billboard advertisement, in hip new cafes sprouting up and by trendy twenty-something techies darting to and from their offices just blocks away - 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 campus's 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 said he came to UC Berkeley to earn a business degree and to explore the campus'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.



Dorothea Lange Fellowship web site (includes slide show of Lemieux's photos)

Haas School of Business