This is a photo illustration I’ve recently put together for my Kickstarter project OUR VOICES of my friend Caroleen, who’s family is originally from Vietnam. They came to America during the war in the early 1970s, when conditions had started to worsen. Here is Caroleen’s story, as told by her father….
My dad was part of the Vietnamese Navy that was allies with the United States during the Vietnam War. He went through officer training school (OCS) trained in Newport, RI. He was stationed in central Vietnam and he and my mom were living together there. The war was getting worse so he sent her home on a plane to back to Saigon. My dad went by ship which took fifteen days.
Back in Saigon, my mom’s cousin had married a US Soldier and had two children with him. The US Soldier was guaranteed that he and his family could go back to the US. He was also taking along another family. My dad asked for the soldier to take he and my mom but he wouldn’t. Instead the soldier offered his Ford station wagon in exchange for a ride to the airport.
While at the airport, the solider realized he left off one of the children’s name from the other family. Not knowing how to type, he asked my dad to go type the boy’s name on the manifest. My dad tracked down an electric typewriter. After he typed the boy’s name, he decided to add along his own name along with my mom’s name. My dad was going to add his brothers’ names and other people but the power suddenly went out.
My dad gave the manifest back to the soldier who didn’t bother to look at it. When the solider told my parents to leave the airport and take the car, my father refused and told him to check the manifest. By then it was too late to send them home since my parents’ names were already on the manifest. That same day, my parents boarded the plane with just the clothes they were wearing and absolutely no money. Since my father was a navy officer fighting with the US Army, if he had stayed, he would be sentenced to prison and sent to re-education camp.
They flew to California first where my dad wanted to stay because he had friends there. However, my mom’s cousin wanted her to go with their family. The solider and his family were from Charlotte so my parents decided to settle in Charlotte. My dad said “we were not boat people, we flew on a plane.” Because they were refugees of the war, my parents were allowed to enter the US. He boasted that we were the first Vietnamese refugees in Charlotte (although I can’t verify that).
My dad was educated and could speak English with his schooling and military training. He found a job within three days in Charlotte. He worked second shift at a convenience store named Jiffy Mart making $2.99 / hour. He eventually got a job with Duke Power and then a few years later, IBM. My dad finally retired from IBM while living and working in California which is where I guess he always originally wanted to be.
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A little about the artwork… The Vietnamese see the lotus as symbolizing purity, commitment and optimism of the future. Traditional colored lanterns are special product from Hoi An. Vietnamese believe that hanging multiple lanterns in front of their house will bring warmth and happiness to the family. The flock of birds represent the family’s flight overseas to America, with Caroleen, not yet born, looking West.
Client: Carolina Actors Studio Theater
Creative Director: Michael Simmons
Set in Cape Cod, a female neurologist comes to terms with her dementia. Playing off a surrealist concept, we wanted to show the woman in a lab coat out of place on the beach, in an in-and-out state of reality and illusion. For the final (above), a dynamic perspective draws your eye into the poster, to a tiny house on the horizon where the climax of the story takes place. We also went with a slight sepia effect to create a nostalgic tension between the past and present.
Here are various comps exploring other directions before deciding on the final.
For 2011, I continued my holiday card series with Happiness as the theme. Using images of a model I shot in the studio, I placed her meditating in the center with the manifestation of all she is dreaming about going on around her.
At the top of the piece the lines are white and thinner, suggesting the ethers or Heavens. As you move towards the bottom the page is more solid, suggesting the earth plain with flowers, water and fruits.
Orange is associated with vibrance and power, so I wanted to have that as my anchor color. Because of their abundant, bushy petals, hydrangeas are thought of as a symbol of expressing love, gratitude and enlightenment. I included oranges as well, as they are often eaten on the second day of the New Year to bring good luck in Chinese culture.
All together I wanted to give a sense of contentment and happiness for entering the new year!