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UC Berkeley graduate student wins Dorothea Lange Fellowship for photos of Asian urban landscapes
14 February 2002

Media Relations

Berkeley -A first-year graduate student in the geography department at the University of California, Berkeley, is the winner of the 2002 Dorothea Lange Fellowship. Wendy Cheng won for her photos of the urban landscape in Taipei, Taiwan, and Toyko, Japan - two locales with strikingly different approaches to space.

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

The award was announced this week by UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs, which administers the fellowship.

"Wendy Cheng is a highly sensitive and excellent photographer," said Penny Dhaemers, a UC Berkeley architecture professor who was a member of the selection committee. "In the photos taken in Taiwan, she is able to capture the essence of the chosen subject matter creating an unusually strong emotional feeling.

"The use of space, composition and highly sophisticated color relationships in her building landscapes is combined with the insertion or suggestion of humanity, for example: the image of a woman's face on a crumpled poster which provides a focus for the whole. Her results are powerful."

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

She 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 was created at UC Berkeley 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.

Her husband Paul Taylor, who was a UC Berkeley professor and labor economist, established the fellowship in 1981 to support the use of color or black-and-white photography in an academic project. The first award was given in 1982.

Cheng's photographs, as well as information on the fellowship, can be viewed online at The images will be exhibited later this year at Moffitt Library.