About the 2002 fellow

Wendy Cheng, a first-year graduate student in the Geography Department here at Berkeley, is the winner of the 2002 Dorothea Lange Fellowship.

The $4,000 prize is awarded each year – to a Berkeley faculty member, graduate student or senior accepted for graduate studies – for outstanding work in documentary photography and a creative plan for future work.

Cheng was honored for her photographs of the urban landscape in Taipei, Taiwan and Tokyo, Japan – two locales that have strikingly different approaches to space.

"In Tokyo, everything is planned and there is an aesthetic sense to every open space," said Cheng. "By contrast, the landscape in Taipei is more haphazard and random, and not really set up to accommodate the movement of its citizens."

Cheng said her work is influenced by the "New Topographics" movement launched in the 1970s.

These photographers, she said, "challenged people to consider all of their surroundings – pretty gardens as well as the parking lot next door – as part of the landscape."

Using her fellowship money, Cheng will travel around the country this summer in her car to document new tract-housing developments in the West and compare them to more established suburbs in the East.

"The tract home is rapidly becoming the dominant American residential form, with deep cultural, social and economic implications," she said. "These communities seem to rise up overnight on the overgrown fields we played on as children."

The fellowship, sponsored by the Office of Public Affairs, was created in honor of Dorothea Lange, one of the 20th century’s most accomplished documentary photographers.

Lange's moving depictions of migrant farm workers – shot while working for the Farm Security Administration – came to symbolize the tragedy of the Great Depression and spurred the government to provide assistance for those it touched. Lange's husband, Berkeley economics professor Paul Taylor, established the fellowship in 1981 to support the use of color or black-and-white photography in an academic project.