Grandma, Halmeoni

These photographs are part of an ongoing project called “Grandma, Halmeoni.” I began photographing my Grandma when I was learning how to take film photographs in college. During that time, I was also undergoing my own personal transformation in relation to my Asian American and Korean identities. Growing up, my conflicted relationship with my Korean identity coincided with my frustrations towards my Grandma, a first-generation Korean immigrant who did not speak much English. Our inability to communicate easily and our vast cultural differences left me feeling isolated from my Grandma, yet familially obligated to be intimate with her. When I began taking photographs of my Grandma, I realized that we were getting to know each other in a way that we never had before.

Since that first project with my Grandma - a series of black and white photos featuring my Grandma in her arm chair - I have continued to photograph her. Photography has provided me with a reason to hold space with her and be vulnerable. It is also a way for me to preserve her character, her mannerisms, her daily life. Both my practice of photography and our relationship deepens when we spend time together, my camera in tow.

Out of my entire body of work, this series holds the most meaning to me. The essence of the photographs below is our relationship as granddaughter and grandmother. While for most of my life, a great distance has existed between us, this project represents the bridge I have built towards my halmeoni, giving me the courage to reach out and get to know her, if not through words then through the act of capturing a moment.

Picking Kumquats