Monday, July 14, 2014

A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America: An exhibit by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

On July 4th, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center revealed its online photographic exhibition A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America. It is "the first crowdsourced gallery of the Asian Pacific American experience around the world as lived on one day."

The day was May 10, 2014, the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railway. As the organizers explained "The Transcontinental Railway was an unprecedented national project that relied heavily on Chinese labor, but whose Asian history was excluded from its visual documentation in the iconic picture of the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah taken on May 10, 1869. This crowdsourced experiment is motivated by this exclusion."

That exclusion is what makes me particularly happy to see that several Laotian Americans photos were included, selected from over 2,000 photos submitted for consideration, including the work of Dennis Dr.Wtpho, Soudary Kittivong Greenbaum, Catzie Vilayphonh, Krysada Binly Phounsiri, Renee Ya, and myself.

In my case, I covered the Inland Empire region of California, including several locales in Hemet, San Jacinto, Moreno Valley, Romoland and Temecula. My particular focus was on the Southeast Asian American community, notably the Lao and Khmer rebuilding their lives in the US almost 40 years since the beginning of our various diasporas.

In my case, I wanted to do shots of the community in ways that weren't commonly seen, but it also became clear that in this region, there weren't many typical types photographs of the AAPI community to begin with, despite the many years we'd been living here. How do we bring visibility to such a space where we ARE there, but often taken for granted?

An introduction to the exhibit was written by acclaimed Asian American activist Helen Zia. As she notes, "Reflected through our lenses is the irrepressible dynamism and spirit that AAPIs bring to the heart of this land — as ordinary yet extraordinary Americans. Of thee I sing."

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