East of Eden 2002-2006
East of Eden began in the United States as a series of large, staged, color, narrative photographs that question the historical depiction of the American landscape as the Garden of Eden. The historical strategy of utilizing the landscape as a metaphor for nationalism and optimism provides the background for my visual thesis. Initially I was interested in looking at our contemporary American landscape as the Garden of Eden and re-framing it from the post-September 11th perspective. These photographs in East of Eden dealt with humanity in the context of the post-apocalyptic landscape. Since In 2005, I began to travel throughout Vietnam to continue working on my visual thesis both in a landscape that bears the physical scars of the war, and with the people that have lived and survived its horrors.
Entitled East of Eden: Vietnam, this chapter became a documentation of people who were physically maimed by the war that officially ended over thirty years ago. East of Eden: Vietnam was partly inspired by my experience growing up in Vietnam with my brother, an amputee, who lost his right arm while serving as a South Vietnamese soldier in the battlefield of Cambodia. It is was my intention to use the camera to create visual documentations that will serve as a reminder of the horrors of war and also as a proof of the survivors' strength, courage and acceptance.. East of Eden: Vietnam was an attempt to come to terms with my past and to offer those of whom that are violently marked by the war the opportunity to tell their stories.
While working as a Guggenheim fellow to document Vietnamese war amputees in 2012, I began working on My East of Eden as a new chapter to my ongoing photographic series East of Eden. This project is my attempt to reclaim my real and imagined childhood memories and fantasies of growing up in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Beyond serving as the means to tell my stories, I intend for these new images to address issues, such as legacy, hope and regeneration. Working with rural Vietnamese children in school uniforms in the Spring of 2012, I began making portraits and staged photographs reminiscing of the 19th century British landscape paintings where the environment and its inhabitants existed in harmony. Against the backdrop of the once scarred landscape, (My) East of Eden is a celebration of the resilience and beauty of humanity.