Thy Phu : Diasporic Vietnamese Family Photographs, Orphan Images, and the Art of Recollection

[ndlr] Signalement d’un article paru dans Trans Asia Photography Review (Volume 5, Issue 1: Photography and Diaspora, Guest Edited by Anthony W. Lee, Fall 2014). Un numéro entièrement dédié à l’étude de la photographie asiatique de plusieurs diasporas. Il explore le travail et les réflexions d’artistes sur la mémoire. Nous remercions Caroline Grillot pour nous avoir signalé cette édition en ligne.

Dinh Q. Lê, detail from Crossing the Farther Shore, 2014 © Nash Baker and the Rice Gallery, Houston.

Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen yearns for a box of photos her family shipped to their temporary home in Japan in 1975, a box that never arrived. The journalist Andrew Lam confesses to the “unforgivable act” of burning his family photos, which reduced three generations to ashes.[1] During her first journey back to Vietnam in thirty years, Kim’s hired car circles the roads of Bien Hoa, a town just south of Saigon, in search of the photo studio where dozens of her portraits were kept, only to learn that the owners have emigrated and no one knows what happened to these old photos. She returns to her home in Ontario, disappointed and bereft.[2]

Such stories of visual yearning are familiar to the Vietnamese diaspora. They are especially poignant for the first wave of refugees, those who fled in 1975, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as well as for the second wave, the “boat people,” whose plight gave rise to the Indochinese humanitarian crisis of the late 1970s to the early 2000s.[3] For these two groups, photos are an often fraught, incomplete record of a painful past.

As they awaited their chance to flee, refugees hid, altered, abandoned, buried, or even burned photos that contained incriminating evidence of collaboration with Americans and loyalty to the defeated Republic of Vietnam. Many of those who fled abandoned compromising pictures in the name of survival. For others, photos that remained intact were left behind to make room for jewelry with which to barter and enough food to keep them going.

Photographs lie at the core of the Vietnamese diaspora, especially for those who struggle to piece together incomplete stories told by images, many of which were defaced, discarded, or destroyed. At the same time, such photos represent a tie to the families left behind, whether as memories of artifacts that no longer exist or as surviving images that evoke layers of memories.

Despite the prominence of these stories of visual longing among diasporic Vietnamese, however, few critics have paid careful attention to them. How has photography — especially family photography — affected this community? This paper explores the function of family images in recent projects by first- and second-wave refugees.

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Citer ce billet
indomemoires (2014, 27 octobre). Thy Phu : Diasporic Vietnamese Family Photographs, Orphan Images, and the Art of Recollection. Mémoires d'Indochine. Consulté le 24 mai 2024, à l’adresse