diaCRITICS closes 2018 with an in-progress glimpse at documentarian Vĩ Sơn Trinh’s “The Stories We Carry” project. We love how Vĩ captures textures and (emotional) tones of the second- and third-generation diasporas, documenting how the past lives on, and is carried.
When I was 10 years old, I recall going through a photo album that my mom and dad kept in their attic. As I was rummaging through the album, there was one particular photo that caught my eye. It was an image of my dad in his 30’s in a refugee camp in Galang, Indonesia. In this photo, he stood with crossed arms, in front of paintings that he had created. Growing up, I have never seen my dad paint. I would see him sketch occasionally, but most of my memories were of him with mom, working seven days a week. This photo made me realize that my parents went beyond their usual roles as Mom and Dad. There was so much that I didn’t know, and so much that I want to know. It was that photo that inspired me to start the The Stories We Carry project.
During the process of collecting family photos , I wondered how there must be other individuals with similar narratives to mine. The similarities could be deeply rooted in their lineage, their transition to a new country, or a struggle that they had or have experienced. The concept of people holding photos or memorabilia in their hands manifests as a literal interpretation of “the stories we carry”. Hands are fascinating to me, stemming from my parents working in the manicure business. They work with their hands all day, forging mostly anonymous connections, to beautify the hands of others. When I look at my parents’ hands, I can see their history told through the contours and divots of their palms. Because of this, I hope to share other people’s stories through this medium.
My creative partner, Andy Nguyen, and I hope this project focus is to highlight the experiences of second generation immigrants, third generation immigrants, and beyond. It is about acknowledging the roots of our ancestors and our parents planted and finding spaces to let our own stories “branch” and take shape. As this project continues to grow, my hope is that people from different backgrounds will see it and recognize that there are many things that thread us all together as human beings.
[Texture Poem 001 : Vĩ Sơn Trinh]
Vĩ Sơn Trinh is a documentarian and a nursing student based in Portland, OR. He spends his downtime over coffee, a good book, or chasing stray cats on the streets.
All photographs by Vĩ Sơn Trinh; used with permission from the artist.
Please also see our artist profile of Vĩ Sơn Trinh (Vincent Trinh) from May 2018.