The Story of Our Ancestors
I was born in Richmond, Virginia to parents from the Northeastern states. My ancestors immigrated to the US from Ireland, Scotland, and Germany in the 1800s. Though my parents are into genealogy and shared stories about our ancestors, I never really thought about my ancestors until I moved to Germany.
Learning German, I often used the wrong words and frequently sounded silly. Making mistakes is part of learning a language but it’s not easy. Trying to do simple things and to explain myself became adventures.
I didn’t just have to learn German language but also learn how german society thinks and relates. Adjusting to the new society, I had to change the behaviors and perspectives I learned growing up in the US.
When I settled in Germany, I had difficulty adjusting to the culture. My difficulty may lie in that Germany is quite similar to the US. The differences are harder to define because of they are not as obvious. They are not obvious but they are important. I made many cultural faux pas without realizing it.
Taking the Boat Over
Living far away from my hometown, family, and friends, I started thinking about how my ancestors felt when they left their birthplace and took a boat across the Atlantic to the New World. I pictured them settling in a foreign land and adjusting to hot and humid climate of the East Coast.
I wondered how they dealt with homesickness. They could only write letters to their loved ones. No Skype; No Emails; No Facebook.
Imagining my ancestors migration and experiencing my own, led me to begin Drift Seed photography project
Drift Seed Project
In Drift Seed photography project, I combine images of three countries onto a roll of film. For the first set, I photographed Germany, Ireland, and Richmond, Virginia. I travel to the countries and photograph them on the same film.
Instead of rewinding the film completely so that the film goes all the way into the canister, I rewind it just until it is about to go all the way in. Then I take the film with me to the next country and add a second photograph layer onto the film. I rewind just nearly to the beginning and take the twice exposed roll to the third country. After the third layer I develop the film.
When you look at the photographs from Drift Seed, you’ll notice that it is hard to distinguish the places. They all blend together.
The cerulean blue comes from a fountain near the Kölnische Dom. It was a bright day and the water reflected the sun’s bright light. Look a little further, you’ll find the bricks of Cork City and then a rusted painted white metal object in Richmond’s alleyway.
Figures as a Narrative
It’s more challenging to separate the layers in Figures as a Narrative. What stands out most is a figures walking across a square. I took that layer in Köln, Germany. The other two layers are in the foreground. They create the texture. Notice the white lines and the crumbling cement. Those are two separate layers and place – Cork City and Richmond.
In the Shoes of
Like the uncertainty that our ancestors felt when they traveled to a foreign land, I explore this feeling in this series.
The images are like the first impressions an immigrant experiences. I used my own experience as I adapted to the new culture to created these photographs.
When you look at these photographs, imagine how your ancestors felt settling in a strange new land. Drift Seed series gives perspective on how it feels to immigrate and adjust to foreign language and customs.