Sunday, September 18, 2011

the question

Sometimes I think that being white is looking white, and I am just clinging to some exotic self-image because I want to be different.

I never really passed until I came to Iowa.  All my life, people, upon meeting me, would eventually ask some variation of the question, "what are you?"  More than a few have guessed Latina, and a boyfriend once told me that I looked like an Eskimo.  While I worked in a photography store in Berkeley,* a student asked me if she could photograph me as part of a series of portraits of people of mixed-race.  It happened twice.  Here, I have friends here who say they never guessed, they never even thought that there was something to guess.  And no one asks me that question anymore.

So I'm photographing Chinese restaurants in Iowa, but it's not really about the restaurants.  It's about our living room with it's hard, heavy chairs and grandly absurd dragons.  It's about the stone lions that I begged my friends to steal.  It's about this cultural heritage that I don't feel I can claim, even though it's the same heritage that made us different.  I don't think I want a survey of restaurant decor.  What I want is bigger and less well defined.

*still the Best Camera Store Ever

No comments: