How did you get your start in photography?
The first time I remember picking up a camera I was 12 years old. I spent a month in China for my grandmother’s funeral. My parents bought me a couple cheap disposable cameras and I took snapshots of anything I found interesting. I was very unimpressed with the results. So, when I had a chance to enroll in a photography class in my sophomore year of high school, I thought I would fail miserably at it. Instead, I fell in love with the medium.
What past and present photographers inspire you?
There are works from photographers that I can never forget and have deeply impacted me. I will never forget the moment I saw Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Seascapes” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2007. In the back of my mind, I knew photography could impact someone deeply, but it wasn’t until I saw Sugimoto’s photographs that I fully understood. The beauty of such a starkly minimalist landscape still haunts me. More recently, Larry Sultan’s “Pictures of Home,” which I viewed at Milwaukee Museum of Art last year and Elinor Carucci’s “Closer” had a very similar impact. Their work helped me understand the different interpretations of photographing family, from the intimacy of Carucci’s work and the way Sultan’s parents collaborated with him.
More broadly, I have long admired the vividness of William Eggleston’s work and his ability to amplify the mundane as well as Cindy Sherman and Nikki S. Lee’s takes on identity or to be more accurate, the simulation of identity.
How has photography changed since you first got started in the business?
I can speak to this in regards to how photography has changed as a medium for me. When I first started photography, the focus was on film. My initial access was a black and white (b&w) darkroom at my high school in 2003. In the summer between my junior and senior year of high school (2005), I took a summer course at an early program at SAIC and used my first color darkroom there. Since I didn’t have access to a color darkroom at my high school, I shot color film and then digitalized the negatives. When I attended University of New Mexico (UNM), the color darkroom was already phased out and their beginner courses taught both digital and b&w darkroom. By the time I graduated in 2012, film photography was only offered as an elective and the beginner courses had all but phased out film.
I am very lucky to have had the chance to access both film and digital processes. I still shoot both today.
Ideally, how would you like people to receive your work? / What would you like your viewers to get out of viewing your photos?
My only hope is that people are impacted even in a small way. My work is very personal, touching on themes of identity and home and has been informed by my childhood and formative experiences since. I was born and raised within a sprawling suburb of southwest Florida. Because of the suburbs' homogenous appearance, I always felt like I was living in two different worlds: the inside of my house with my family and our traditional Chinese traditions and the outside environment with its sometimes hard to understand rituals. I want people to see my point of view and find connections to my work.
What equipment do you prefer to work with? Do you ever experiment with new equipment, styles, or effects?
I like having on hand both digital and film cameras. I will admit when I am just walking around, it’s easier to have a digital camera with me at all times even if it can be bulky. Though sometimes, I also carry a small 35mm camera. When I want to take my time and make more deliberate choices, I use a medium format film camera. I also shoot with a Polaroid Land camera. I work in a combination of film and digital depending on the project I am working on. To me, it’s not what equipment I own, but what technique and style will work best for the project.
What has your experience as a Dane County artist been like? Are there any artists in the area you have collaborated with?
I only moved to Dane County recently. It’s been three years, but I have found it daunting finding connections since I’m no longer in school and I’m still learning a lot about Madison and the surrounding area. I am originally from Fort Myers, FL, where I was greatly involved in the art community at the high school level. After that, I lived Albuquerque, NM for six years and attended UNM where I had access to professors, peers, and art organizations. Dane County has some wonderful organizations, and what appears to be a great art community, but I have only now found a way to get involved through working with Arts & Literature Laboratory. I hope I will be able to continue to make more and more connections to Madison and the art community.
What entices you about living in Dane County? What galleries, art museums, etc. do you like to visit in/around Madison?
Dane County is beautiful and I love living so close to downtown Madison. I appreciate that there’s always something going on, whether it be a food or art festival or a local show. The infrastructure of Madison is built for biking and walking around and Dane County seems to encourage buying locally from the many farmer’s markets in the spring and fall and the abundance of local businesses to choose from.
I am within walking distances of Chazen Museum and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which I visit as often as I can (though it’s been difficult for me during the winter!). I appreciate that when I am attending a show at the Overture that there are galleries featuring local work all along the upper levels to visit. I also love that I’m a short drive away from Milwaukee Museum of Art and all of the Chicago museums without having to live in a big city.