This was for a project in my photography class. We had to choose historical photos from our culture and then find text to go with the picture and put everything together in the style of Carrie Mae Weems. The text of each photo is either directly quoted from an actual person, modified from a primary source, or created entirely by me.

Theme of the entire piece: “Even if my fingernails [tear] out, my nose and ears rip apart, and my legs and arms crush, the pain of losing my nation is more brutal.” - Yu Gwansun

This piece explores the painful history of Korea and Koreans - Japanese occupation, Korean War, Korean Diaspora, and the L.A. Riots - and how in each case, our nation lost bits of itself (dead student protesters, dead soldiers, orphan children sent overseas, and loss of a purely Korean identity in exchange for a Korean American identity).

1) Dark purple. Mothers grieve for their sons killed in a demonstration, 1960. I solely created the text. While I am not sure if this picture is connected to the Japanese occupation of Korean from 1910-1945 and the consequent student demonstrations reacting against it, I interpreted the picture to represent the sorrow of Korean mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to the struggle against Japanese occupation.

2) Olive green. The color of peace is contrasted jarringly with the image of a machinery behind a young Korean girl and what it seems to be her baby brother. The word “South Korea” is on the baby and “North Korea” is placed on the young girl to show how families were split by the civil war. Text is based on a NY Times article that quoted Ri Kyong, a North Korean refugee. I modified it slightly.

3) Blue. A photo of a young Korean orphan. He represents the nearly 200,000 children who have been adopted overseas [often into white families] since the Korean War. This connects to the broader Korean Diaspora. Text is directly from adoptee Andy Marra’s wonderful and heartfelt article on going to Korea to meet her biological mother for the first time.

4) Red. My least favorite aesthetically because I had to really contrast the picture in order to highlight the redness so the picture is unclear. It is a photograph of Korean storeowners on rooftops, guarding their livelihoods. Text is a merging of two quotes from this NY Times article of April 1992. While this photograph is not of Korea directly, it is about immigrant Koreans in America and the long history of emigration from Korea. The L.A. Riots showed how isolated Koreans were from other people of color who resented their so-called “model minority” success and isolated from the police forces that abandoned the Koreans in their time of need. After the L.A. Riots, Koreans realized the importance of structuring a Korean American identity and getting involved in politics and activism, especially working closely with other communities of color.

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