From 2001 on, all but one of the Lange Fellowship winners have been graduate students, and the last five have all been seeking journalism degrees. Coombs’ emphasis in the J-school is new media. In addition to working as a reporter and editor for magazines in Portland, Oregon (and as a legal secretary for tax attorneys), she was site architect for a social networking site. In the Bay Area, she has contributed to the Bay Guardian and worked for the Knight Digital Media Center, a partnership of the journalism schools at Berkeley and USC.
The annual award sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs is issued in the memory of Lange, one of the 20th century’s finest documentary photographers. She became famous for her federal Farm Security Administration collaboration with her husband, the late UC Berkeley economist Paul Taylor, to photographically document the exodus of desperate farm families migrating West in search of work during another era of economic distress, the Great Depression.
The Lange award is issued annually to a UC Berkeley faculty member, graduate student or senior accepted for graduate study who shows promise in documentary photography and a creative plan for future work. It is aimed at encouraging the use of black-and-white or color photography in scholarly work.
The portfolio submitted by Coombs, a student at the Graduate School of Journalism, included vivid and haunting color photos of an immigrant family’s abandoned home in a working-class neighborhood in Vallejo, a city northeast of San Francisco. She plans to use the fellowship’s $4,000 grant to complete a photo project that will include a book and audio-slideshow documenting the personal values and tough choices facing families experiencing foreclosure in California.
– Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations