Chakarova, a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and coordinator of special projects there, said she plans to use the $4,000 award to underwrite a project intimately profiling the daily lives of several disabled people through black-and-white photos and interviews.
In her entry, she included 35-mm portraits she made of participants at Oakland's Creative Growth Center, the first independent visual arts facility for severely disabled adults in the United States.
Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school, gave Chakarova high praise in his recommendation letter, calling her "one of the most promising, not to say intrepid and committed, young photographers whom I have encountered in America." He also lauded her "unfailingly good eye and an abiding commitment to the craft."
Chakarova received her BFA degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute and completed her graduate thesis in the Visual Studies Department at UC Berkeley.
The Bulgarian-born photographer has had numerous solo exhibitions of her documentary projects on social issues in Africa and the Caribbean. This is Chakarova's fifth year teaching photography at the UC Berkeley's journalism school. She also teaches documentary photography in Stanford University's African and African American Studies program.
"Documentary photography is one of the most powerful and candid forms of expressing one's condition," said Chakarova. "It not only records history, but it educates the public and ultimately calls for action.
Some 19 entries were submitted for this year's Lange fellowship. The competition, sponsored by the UC Berkeley Office of Public Affairs, is open to UC Berkeley graduate students and faculty members.
Lange's husband, UC Berkeley economist Paul Taylor, initiated the award in 1981, a decade and a half after the death of his photographer wife. Taylor died in 1984.