I, too, am Hamilton
I've been meaning to put together this for a while now. This was my semester long project for my photography class last semester, an exploration of diversity on my college campus.
I was raised in Parsippany, a New Jersey suburb outside of New York City populated by people of diverse backgrounds and heritages. I had grown up alongside the sons and daughters of hopeful immigrants who had come to America in search for better opportunities. It was this environment that engendered my love of traveling and passion for exploring new cultures and perspectives, yet, strangely enough, I never fully understood my own heritage. Despite living in an area so rich in cultural diversity, it was not until I came to Hamilton eight months ago that I was really aware that I was Taiwanese. The realization of race in the face of the white upper middle class hegemony of Hamilton College is only the first step. I have to be able to understand the experiences and the implications of being a minority on campus in order to truly come to terms with this part of my identity that I had taken for granted for so long.
This project serves as the beginning of that journey. In order to better understand my own identity, I approached students—friends, acquaintances, sometimes even near strangers—and asked them to tell me their experiences as racial, religious, and sexual minorities on campus. In surprisingly honest interviews, stories emerged—accounts of self-discovery, frustration, acceptance of the past, marginalization, loss of culture, and so much more. Through the creation of a variety of visual metaphors, I tried to give a voice to these individuals and their beautiful stories. In the end, I found my own experiences and perspectives coming into the project as well. Still, these portraits are only the beginning of a much larger lifelong journey for us.
The final setup for the exhibition and me being a tool.
This project marks a shift in my style towards something much more compositionally deliberate and personally meaningful than anything I had ever done before. I spent more time interviewing my subjects and writing down ideas for each picture than I spent actually shooting and editing. Even though I'm not too sure if my future work will be made the same way, I'm proud of this project and thankful that my subjects trusted me enough with their stories to let me do this.
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