AMERICA SEEN is a visual poem about the social landscape of the United States on the eve of and during the Trump administration.
Like all of my work, this photo series focuses on ideas of migration and belonging. Born and raised in Taiwan, and emigrated to New York City in 2005. My experience living as a long-term immigrant has strongly influenced my approach.
So it did here as well. Many issues made me take a closer look of my second home: matters of race and gender, privacy and patriotism, violence and understanding. In a time of unrest, these themes have become magnified. They leave me questioning if these are some of the most turbulent times in American history. That wondering triggered my curiosity, and my outsider’s perspective made me want to try and capture the spirit of the era. I had to explore the places that embody people in the land.
I got started by visiting the locales that represent America to me: New York City, where I’ve lived for more than a decade; Nashville, a city that celebrates traditional American culture, and finally the state of Montana, which symbolizes the frontier spirit of the United States. My route took me from the spectacular cityscape of Manhattan, south to sultry Tennessee, west through the sprawling flat middle of the country, still farther west to the bygone town of Bombay Beach, California, and at last up and back around to the timeless solitude of Butte, Montana.
The contrasts between the heights of glamour and the depths of decline were striking for someone who grew up in Taiwan, a small island country that is ethnically similar and has a uniform mindset. The differences between the everyday souls I encountered on my journey were just as stark: from the happy dreamers to the lonely wanderers.
AMERICA SEEN is not intended only as a self-exploration of the U.S. It’s designed to document a history of this uncertain era. Through my lens, the audience can come along and to see for themselves the divided emotions that blend together in search of the American Dream.