If you think about Hmong oral history, it’s always Hmong men telling our history, and they block our voices.
We went from talking about starting up in 2017 to discussing new things after the team joined the Premier League of America for 2016. First, we’re not using this as a vehicle to get rich, we’re doing this to have fun.
Not only have you inspired me to become a photographer, I truly believe that you’ve influenced a whole generation of Hmong artists. But, Pao, your relationship to photography, I mean it’s no different from anybody’s.
I think a lot of Hmong folks from my parents’ era and my own era who were born or spent time in Laos have these pictures.How would my life have turned out if my family never left China?So what if I owned a restaurant like my dad, or became an engineer like my brother, or, if I turned like my mom really wanted, which was to marry a nice Chinese woman and have nice Chinese kids — that didn’t happen.We sat down again a few weeks later and discussed the cultural gulf between first and second generation immigrant and refugee families, the ways photographs represent our selective memories, and Her’s own significance as a distinguished female voice in the Hmong-American community.Pao, some of your earlier projects touch on studio photography, an activity popular among some Hmong-American communities. Paul’s Hmong Village, what is it about posing for pictures with costumes and backdrops that you, your friends, and your family find so compelling?They want to go back home, to that time.: My mom has never been to an opening. The cultural gulf between the first and second generation — you never really understanding why she did this, and her not getting what you’re up to, it’s really the same, it’s you two trying to connect, it’s unknowable. : There have been three or four waves of generations of Chinese immigrants to the US. Your photographs are a culmination of layers and layers of cultural illusions.: Wing, your family also migrated to America, from Guangzhou, China. Could you tell about your current project, Chine-ness, and about your relationship with your families’ migration?I think in some ways she doesn’t really get the concept of being an artist. I see these flowers, they’re our mothers — frozen in time, collecting dust. : When I went to China for the first time, six years ago, I was working for the US Embassy and Arts Midwest on a new program showing the US through a Chinese-American’s eyes, and traveled to 10 cities in China.: My earliest memories of Thailand, being in the refugee camps, are actually these memories of getting our portraits taken at one of these places.And thinking about it now, and looking at countless studio portraits, for a lot of us it’s a way out of reality, right?The men kill the pig, the women do the prep, we set the table for the men, and we eat the men’s leftovers. And actually, can I just say, Wing, your work was essentially the reason why I became a photographer.Because, Wing, you’ve had these public exhibitions on Lake Street and University Avenue and in Frogtown and the community has been able to see your work, which is something remarkable in itself.