Photographer, Jane Tam, 譚 珍 玲, grew up in Brooklyn after her parents immigrated to New York City in the mid 1970s from Guangdong, China. Many of Jane’s projects reflect the intersection of Chinese and American cultures and how it defines the next generation of working class immigrants. She received for BFA in photography (with honors) from Syracuse University , and has returned to Brooklyn to become an active member of Nymphoto, a women’s photography collective in NYC. Jane’s project (featured below) Foreigner’s in Paradise, will be featured at the Nemo Design Gallery in Portland (along with photographs by Shen Wei) opening November 6th. Her work will also be featured in the exhibit, Whatever Was Splendid, at the Fotofest Biennial 2010. Jane helps us understand the experience of having a foot in two cultures, and her intelligent and personal observations help raise our consciousness to an ever integrated world.
My grandmother told me she had plans to go with my grandfather to pick ginkgo nuts at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn during a gloomy and rainy day and I was more than welcome to join her. The nuts have all fallen to the ground due to the rain and wind so we better pick them before somebody else does. With a cart rolling behind us, I climbed the hill with them behind me, capturing my grandfather helping her walk up the wet and grassy knoll. The glistening yellow ginkgo nuts were like gold, against the wet and black ground and overwhelmed the space my grandmother inhabited.
The overwhelming mix of identities my Chinese American home possess began in this series with a portrait of one of the many tin-foiled stovetops my family installs. Never realizing how odd it might look to the non-Chinese population, the enlargement of such a portrait did register alien to my American identity when I was no longer living in my childhood home. Exploring the relationships my grandparents have with their American landscape and traditional Chinese mentality, the portraits and spaces dictate a décor of their own.
The inherited decoration from Guangdong, China to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn is encapsulated in the homes and in the people. With the mix of visual language in these liminal spaces, the iconography of the Chinese is marked by its specificity to the culture. The enclosures create a diversion to light in the household, making the home a place that seems to be “stuck” between two worlds.
The weavings of different Eastern and Western idioms hold the generational conflict for my Chinese American identity. The series has been a therapeutic study of my family through the American landscape, how it can be seen as a paradise but difficult to call a home. It is the understanding of the knots that tie into the hybrid culture of being Chinese American. The generations of children, like myself, born in America are caught in a complex mix of old and new ideas. Foreigners in Paradise continues on to seek the intricate identities woven into a Chinese American home.
Images from foreigners in paradise
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