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,
Giving the postcard calendars another go, this time with travel vignettes from all over! I had a hard time paring down photos, so I alternated months between landscape photos and diptychs, which is a nice refresh.
This one is dedicated to the passing moments, the pauses, and the finite spaces that shape our narratives. The intimacy of the road— the in between. The images span Northern Europe, California, and the Pacific Northwest, all places I’ve been at home and in between.
I’m excited to team up with my calligraphy friend and muse, Alyce Harley of A Luxe Contraband. This year, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Portland-based Brown Girl Rise, an organization supporting girls of color to reclaim their connection to body, community, health, land, and creativity.
Get yours here!
Portland in Color is getting its own show!!!
Apologies that things have been quiet on the PIC front so far this year. For the past few weeks, I've been working with Mercedes at UNA Gallery to bring Portland in Color to life in a new way.
From March 1st to 25th, the series will be available to view in exhibition. Not only am I excited to share the photos in large scale prints, we're also inviting the featured artists to bring their work to life in the space while the show is up!
On top of the performances and visual art on display at the gallery opening, we'll have workshops and events throughout March. When I began shooting this series last summer, I never imagined it could take form in such a tangible, personal way. I'm especially over the moon to be partnering with UNA, a space dedicated to elevating the work of POC, queer, and femme voices.
Thank you to everyone who's shown support for this project over the last few months-- it's my proudest work. We're still thankful to all donations that help keep the series going and will be back in March with new interviews!
Portland in Color at UNA Gallery
March 1, 2018 6-10pm
Saturdays & Sundays, 12-5pm
Like the series, this gallery is artist-funded. Any donations are welcome and appreciated!
On my three year anniversary of going freelance and "living my dream," I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Tromsø alone and as unsure about the future as ever. Here are some things I do know:
- I can't imagine working for anyone again
- but carrying this weight alone is taking its toll
- I have relentless guilt over this privilege
- but I hope being able to choose to live this way is an act of resistance in and of itself
I spent so many years dreaming of being here, of reaching this point, but now I'm here and don't know what the next step is. I don't know how to bridge the gap between work that pays bills and work that matters more. I don't know how to keep going in an industry that's willfully ignorant of its own biases, that refuses to change and lift up the very people it continues to exploit.
I'm proud of the work I do but I'm tired of insisting it deserves a place in the world.
But I'm still here, and I'll keep making space for myself because there isn't another option. I'll keep asking for diversity and representation from the same publications I'm asking to hire me. I'll keep challenging the ethnocentric lens we're asked to use and insist on using my own instead.
I really believe that our community is the key encouraging change in this industry, and accessibility goes a long way. Please get in touch if you're in the Portland or San Francisco areas and identify as a woman/femme or GNC person of color and need:
- photo work (headshots, collaborations, small projects)
- advice or encouragement about freelancing
- networking or contacts with any publications/companies you've seen me work with
Finally, if you're in the creative industry and need help sourcing POC to hire for work, or need direction on diversity and intersectionality, I'm offering consultation services to help bring POC voices and representation to the front.
Photo by Ben Please of The Bookshop Band in the Isle of Whithorn, Scotland
After traveling all around the US hosting kamayans in 50 states over 52 weeks (!!), my kasama Yana Gilbeuna is writing a book! Not only do I think No Forks Given is the best title ever (that literal and pun perfection tho), I think this book is critically important today with the influx of Filipino food in mainstream media.
Can we talk about that for a second? In the past year or so, friends have been tagging me all over the interwebz whenever something remotely Filipino food related (but especially ube related) is posted.
I love this. After a childhood of having to explain being Filipino, it means a lot to see more of my culture in the media. I love that there are more Filipino restaurants. I love that people are learning that "Asian food" is not a homogenous thing, but actually complex and different everywhere. I love that I can talk about eating fried fish with rice and eggs for breakfast without getting weird looks. I also love that people finally know what ube is.
But I don't love that people keep calling Filipino food "the next big thing" (see here and here). I don't love that these posts quote "established" white chefs confirming this notion (like here and here), as if Filipino food might not be relevant without their blessing. I don't love that the conversation is often about Filipino food being a cool new thing in America when Filipinos are the second largest Asian-American population here.
With this influx of attention to Filipino food, it's critical we center the conversation around Filipino voices. We don't need to read more stories about how someone "discovered" how amazing our food is (cause dude, we know). We need to read more stories from Filipinos themselves on how complex, personal, and often political our food is, as we hold so much of our identity in what we eat and share.
We can and will continue asking for more representation in the media, but we can also fund projects by independent artists to help get their voices out into the world. Backing Yana's book on Kickstarter is a great way to do that-- to fund the change you want to see, as my Twitter hero Jee says.
On a more personal level, I'm really pumped about this book because the team behind it is mostly Filipino and Yana asked yours truly to take the photos (!!!) So if you have the means to donate, or even some time to share, by backing this project, you're backing independent artists, you're backing women of color, you're backing POC telling their own story and taking back their own narratives.
Back No Forks Given here! And without further ado..
yana's ube bibingka
1 package glutinous rice flour
1 package regular rice flour
a carton of coconut cream
1 cup water
1 jar of ube jam
a jar of macapuno
1/4 cup muscovado
butter to taste
Whisk the two rice flours together, then slowly incorporate the coconut cream. Add about a cup of water to loosen up the mixture if it's too thick. Mix in your ube jam and add extra ube flavor to taste. Take Instagram pics of the cool marbling effect. Mix in your macapuno and muscovado.
Line a backing dish with banana leaves, pour in the bibingka batter (don't worry about filling to the tip-top because this doesn't really rise), and bake at 395°F for 20-30 minutes, preferably while watching Riverdale and gawking at Jughead. Once the top has baked, rub some butter over the top then return to the oven. Bake for another 10-15 or until a toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle with moscavado. Share with all your friends, the true Filipino way.