“When once you have tasted flight you will always walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward: for there you have been and there you will always be.”
— Henry Van Dyke
I went to an artist talk at the Mpls Photo Center a couple of weeks ago and had yet another mind-blowing experience. I’m still reeling from the experience.
The photographer was Wing Young Huie. I have seen his work many times and in fact, I own a couple of his books. He is a local artist and he is making images of the Minnesota that I know.
I don’t know if it’s because of the huge hormonal change in my body or if it’s because I’m getting older, but I find it increasingly difficult to attend public events. I’m so glad the lights were off as I had several strong emotional reactions to his words and images.
How can I even begin to explain what I felt that night?
Some good insights. Some jarring sensations.
“People only see what they are capable of seeing,” was just one of the gems of experience that Huie shared. If my camera is how I see the world around me, then what do my photos say about my sight?
I bought my first SLR camera in Chicago, then promptly hopped on a plane to return to school in the Himalaya Mountains. The year was 1987 and I shot my first roll of film in those foothills, amongst the rhododendron trees and free-ranging monkeys of the region. When I look through my camera I am always looking at the land around me, trying to capture that moment of my existence.
This has been what is most important to me. Perhaps that is my way to finding a space for me to dwell.
I studied race, class, ethnicity, and gender theory for many years while finishing my doctorate. I spent more than a decade exploring language that would appropriately illustrate my experience as a South Asian American woman living in Minnesota. I left the University with the suspicion that I had been looking in the wrong place and did in fact have the insight that it might exist in the language of photography. Confirming my suspicions, Huie summed it all up with one sentence. I will restate it here in my own words:
I feel like I have been photoshopped into the landscape of Minnesota.
Although I live, breathe, survive the cold, warmth, and nicety of Minnesota, I will perpetually be perceived as someone that has been placed in the picture – a prop, perhaps. As someone who is not part of the natural landscape, an outsider and an other.
Truth be told – I have come to terms with that. I believe having a child has changed my perspective, certainly my reality, and my interaction with the region where my child was born. She belongs here.
When I look upon her face, I see parts of myself with Minneapolis as the backdrop. She brought me to the inside. And when I went in, I found I was there all along
Thoughts for a quiet moment:
What truths have you learned about yourself since having a child?
If you are not a parent, what was a catalyst for self-awareness in your life?