Peter Lemieux, MBA 01 -- The Art of Economic Development
A Peruvian heroin addict waits for work in the Mission district, his back to a billboard that reads, "Finance Your Dreams." Kids play a makeshift game of basketball without a hoop in Havana. These are among the scenes that Peter Lemieux has vividly captured in black-and-white photography documenting Latino street life at home and abroad.
During his last year at Haas, Lemieux won UC Berkeley's 2001 Dorothea Lange Fellowship for his photos of migrant workers on San Francisco's Cesar Chavez Street and UC Berkeley's 2001 Eisner Prize for Photo-Imaging for his photos of Cuban street life. Still, he expresses surprise that his Haas classmates voted him least likely to use his MBA.
"I'm not going to use my MBA in the traditional manner," Lemieux acknowledges. He plans to apply his passion for documentary photography and his business acumen to social causes.
As part of his latest project, called "Reflecting SOMA," Lemieux is working with the SOMA Foundation, an economic development organization creating a plan to revitalize Sixth Street in San Francisco's South-of-Market area. Lemieux, a San Francisco resident, will assist the foundation in meeting its goal of bringing in six new businesses and revitalizing six existing businesses. Using photography and personal interviews, he will create a multimedia exhibit documenting the lives of people on Sixth Street and the disparate issues they face as a neighborhood. This project will be used as a tool to guide policy making and urban planning by the SOMA Foundation and the community as a whole.
"SOMA is arguably the most culturally, economically, and politically fragmented neighborhood in San Francisco. Parts of it, like Sixth Street, are an urban war zone. Other parts, like Yerba Buena, are fully revitalized. As a result, you find drug dealers and prostitutes sharing the sidewalk with artists, commuters, and young families," says Lemieux. "The idea is to put a mirror to the SOMA community where they can look at themselves and learn about themselves in a new light."
Knowing he wanted to work internationally, Lemieux became interested in photography as he was finishing undergraduate work at Duke University in 1993. "I realized for the rest of my life I'm going to be in places that I will want to record and document," he says.
After Duke, Lemieux started a relief organization called Americas Life-Line, which aided healthcare workers in Peru, and then became executive director of VIDA, a Latin America-focused medical relief organization. Throughout, he photographed the communities he served, including a burn center in Peru and an orphanage in El Salvador. He helped the Daughters of Charity find a way to meet the needs of a leper colony in Vietnam. Rather than giving the colony a $5,000 each year to pay for rice and electricity, the charity could help the colony turn its 20 acres of undeveloped land into a coffee farm. Lemieux figured that within three years the colony would have enough revenue to cover the cost of its basic necessities.
Such experiences convinced Lemieux an MBA would better enable him to contribute more to social causes. "I was convinced business rather than charity was the best way to drive improvement in these institutions," he says. "I think people have more dignity and self-esteem when they're earning what they're receiving. Given the opportunity to prove themselves, they can demonstrate their value and talents."
To see more of Lemieux's work, visit www.berkeley.edu/lange. If interested in learning more about his latest projects, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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