Soul search

Updated: 2012-09-02 08:00

By Darnell Gardner Jr (China Daily)

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Soul search

Huie has published five books of his works and has been lecturing at several Chinese universities in the past year.


A Chinese-American photographer chases identity issues from coast to coast, trying to find himself, as he tells Darnell Gardner Jr.

Chinese-American Wing Young Huie, exploring what it means to be American, has used his camera to document US life for 35 years. He's pursued his craft in hopes that he can engage US audiences in a discussion about the complexities of their national identity. Now, he's sharing his insights with a Chinese audience.

Identity and the American Landscape is a selection of 60 images taken by Huie on a trip across the United States. The exhibit has been touring China since 2010 and is expected to make its final stop in Jiangxi province in November.

Huie says he was excited to be able to bring the exhibit to China.

"I think for any child of immigrants, it's a big thing to go to back to the motherland," he says. "It's always the dream of children of immigrants to move back to their parents' homeland."

Though Huie had traveled to Hong Kong in the past, his first trip to the Chinese mainland was at the exhibition's opening in Beijing about two years ago.

Much of Huie's work is driven by what he describes as his "hyphenated identity". He was born to Chinese immigrants from Guangdong province, and of his parents' six children, he was the only one born within the United States.

Soul search

Wing Young Huie says he has been surprised that he and his camera are so often pulled to urban areas that have been stigmatized. This image is titled Miss Congeniality. Photos Provided to China Daily

This background didn't just differentiate him from other Americans, it drew a line between him and the rest of his family. He remembers having trouble relating to his parents while he was growing up, especially with his mother, who spoke very little English.

"There were few people in popular culture that reflected my parents' identities," he says. "There were times when my own parents seemed foreign and exotic to me."

Huie often felt just as out of place outside his home.

"Growing up, we were the only Asian family in the neighborhood," he says. "When another Asian kid showed up in school, I avoided him. I don't think I realized I was avoiding someone that looked like me."

In an attempt to better understand his own identity and to create a counter to what he perceives as superficial portrayals of American society in the media, Huie embarked on trip throughout the US that sometimes brought him to unexpected places.

"A lot of my projects were of urban areas, which are very stigmatized," he says.

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