I keep thinking of how to reflect on 2018 and the longer I wait, the less I have to say. I don’t know if it’s capitalism or comparison (or both) but somehow I’ve come out of another hectic year feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.
This isn’t true, of course. I had more range in assignments than I’ve ever had. And as a photographer that hasn’t committed to one specific genre, it’s made me reflect on the privilege I have to even bear witness to these stories. From reporting on food insecurity in rural Oregon to shooting an entire cookbook filled with delicious (and sometimes expensive) seafood galore, flying last minute across the world to covering poverty in my new home state, how do I balance this spectrum of stories?
I hope I can always tell them with an honest lens.
I felt frantic most of this year, but the wake of what’s happened still feels right. I see it as a year having already found my voice, then learning what else it could do (forever striving for Mariah octaves figuratively and literally tbh).
My spirits soared in the most unexpected moments (BBC! Obama Foundation! cookbooks!), but my heart broke in a way that still devastates me.
I’ve grown to fear less when speaking up, or I’ve become numb to it. Advocacy will never not be exhausting, but it will always be necessary. I’ll continue to say no to unpaid labor, and speak up even though the system was made to silence us. And I’ll keep going, because I can’t bear the idea that it might never get better.
I spent a lot of this year angry. Which, to be fair, isn’t unusual for me (there is a lot to be angry about!), but the anger itself was from something new. I thought about all the time marginalized artists spend needing to be extra careful, extra good, extra everything to perform extra labor. To have the difficult conversations, and navigate a society and industry that was built by excluding them. But still creating, and still persisting. Because we can’t not, and these conversations are critical to both our art and our being.
And then I tried to imagine a world where the extra wasn’t needed. Where we could put our full hearts and equally distributed resources toward what we care about the most. Thinking outside any need to fight or contextualize oppression, and just create. Just be.
The Los Angeles Arboretum.
Outside Bonnie Slotnick’s.
My first ever solo exhibit at UNA Gallery, featuring Portland in Color. By Vy Hong Pham.
Making a home, and our first snow together.
Marshall Johnson sitting for a tattoo by Alice Kendall for the Audobon Society.
Da Vinci middle schoolers protest during March for Our Lives, a nationwide student-organized protest calling for gun reform.
Part of the Racist Sandwich team at the La Cocina Conference in San Francisco, California.
DeRay McKesson for Street Roots.
Abdulah Polovina, imam of a mosque at the Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization in Portland, Oregon for Street Roots.
Young girls in low income housing in Ontario, Oregon as reported for part of the Housing Rural Oregon series for Street Roots.
DJ and activist Cay Horiuchi for Portland in Color.
Michelle and Alex along the California coast in their van, Bobby.
Food writer and host of A Hungry Society, Korsha Wilson.
Angela Flying Eagle at First Christian Church food pantry in Ontario, Oregon; on assignment for Street Roots.
Molly Woodstock, host of Gender Reval podcast, photographed for Portland in Color.
Penny Rawlins Martin, the first and youngest woman to sail between Tahiti and Hawai'i on the inaugural Hokulea voyage, for Misadventures Magazine.
Across the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. We started in Barra and made our way north to Harris and Lewis.
Behind the scenes for Yana Gilbuena's upcoming book, No Forks Given, due out September 2019.
Morning in San Jose del Cabo.
Summer in Portland and Stockholm.
The oyster beds at Chelsea Farms in Olympia, Washington for the upcoming book Pacific Northwest Seafood by Naomi Tomky.
Scenes from Calabria— Chianalea, Scilla, Tropea, and Civita— on assignment for Airbnb.
Mama's first time in France, Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Paris with my sisters, on film.
Ma enjoying a moment on a tiny balcony in Nice— not only the highlight of my year but a forever highlight in my heart.
My days have blurred together, but I’m trudging forward, hoping that every little bit is adding up somewhere. Hoping that someone is keeping count.
Here’s to another year of doing our best.
In light and solidarity,
If this 2017 recap feels late it's because it was a harder year to digest. I've always been anxious for a new start, and while the same is still true, this time it was harder to start again with so many lingering loose ends.
The privilege of being an artist and the responsibility of using my voice weighed on me heavily.
But it also became clear that it's unrealistic for me to take on this weight alone. I'm so thankful to my community, especially the communities of color, that teach me the delicate balance of self care and self preservation (especially when the two blur together).
It's easy for me to look back and tally up what I wish I'd accomplished, but as I think I once read from Bill Wurtz, "I'm working as fast as humanly possible." Because being human means leaving room for weeks of dreaming, the days you never want to see your work again, and the 2ams when you finally hit your stride. It's not just the work in progress, but the also the progress in work.
I've struggled to share my life the way I used to. I miss being in college and blogging every day; I miss lugging my camera around to remember everything; I miss keeping up this diary of memories.
Today I've been in Portland for just about 3.5 years and realizing I came for things that don't really exist here. It can be lonely, especially as a self-employed artist and woman of color. Sometimes it's suffocating how small and impossible this town feels. But in this loneliness I've found something so much better.
Somehow I've found a community that's surpassed all of my dreams. I'm so glad that we keep growing and learning and loving with each other. And I can't wait til it's 100 degrees so we can do this again.
Thank you to my POC family for sharing space and making this place finally feel like home.
The last time I was in Wigtown, I'd just lost my father. It was October and the town had begun to slow and quiet post Book Festival, and my quiet days in the bookshop were exactly what I needed.
But this time, it's different. This time I'm learning more about the people that make this town, what it means to prioritize art and culture no matter where you live, and finding a place in the community even if it's just for a little bit.
In the first month since I've been back, my heart still warms every time I come downstairs and walk through the shop-- whether to work down stairs or say hello or just pass on my way out. There's such a comfort in being surrounded by books-- especially when they're basking in low winter light and Captain has just come down the stairs and rubs his side along your leg to say hello.
It's just how I remembered it but also brand new, and exactly where I want to be.
As I see millennia of discrimination and suffering sink their teeth further into our wounds, I wonder what I'm doing five thousand miles away from home.
I don't know that I'll ever overcome this guilt of being gone when there's so much to do at home, but I'm hoping that in creating art and offering a marginalized perspective, I'm prioritizing and making space for more good in this life.
During my first weekend as Wigtown Artist in Residence, the town hosted Big Bang Weekend-- a lecture series celebrating female scientists and their work. I didn't expect to relate to any of the content but appreciated that this tiny rural town had made space to provide female scientists a platform to share their experiences and findings.
While I wouldn't dare any attempt to reiterate what I'd learned from Dr. Amy Hofmann, Dr. Pippa Goldschmidt, and Dr. Maya Tolstoy in their respective fields of planetary habitability, science fiction writing, and deep sea exploration, the humanity in their perspectives resonated with me the most. During the first panel, all three women gathered on stage to give teasers on their lectures to come.
When the inevitable subject of science as a male-dominated field came up, former astronomer/fiction writer Pippa elaborated the importance of having different perspectives. Not only for representation (because that should be a given), but because your findings as a scientist can only be improved by having more eyes and backgrounds look at your work. Diversity is key.
Amy spoke of her lifelong love of astrobiology (even before she knew what it was called), how she was discouraged from pursuing the field in high school, and how her love of science eventually won-- all tied to the beauty of studying science for the sake of mere curiosity.
And Maya gave the striking yet not surprising statistic that 25% of female field scientists have reported being assaulted on the field, while 75% have reported being harassed. We can acknowledge and applaud the small steps in progress we're making, but there's still a long road ahead.
So where do we go from here? We continue to make space and prioritize these conversations. We actively seek knowledge from women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, and other marginalized communities.* We keep going.
*I am not the first to point out that this panel featured only white women. I whole-heartedly believe we need to hear from other marginalized communities, and applaud the Wigtown Festival for coming this far. That said, this is just the minimum-- there is still a long road ahead and I'm optimistic about their events to come.
"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." - Carl Sagan