Magnum Emergency Fund Fellow Pete Pin is raising funds for his photography project. In order to receive contributions, the project must be funded in full by Thursday Sep 20, 2012. From Pete: I will photograph in Cambodian communities across the U.S. Northeast, generating intergenerational dialogue around unspoken memories. To help: kickstarter.com/projects/181740424/the-cambodian-diaspora
Between 1975-1979, 1.7 million Cambodians—a third of the country’s population— perished during the Killing Fields, one of the most horrific state-sponsored genocides of the twentieth century. In the years since, over 150,000 Cambodians displaced in refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border resettled in the United States.
My immediate family is among the survivors.
In the fall of 2010, I set up a makeshift portrait studio in my grandmother's garage in Stockton, California. Right before I took her photo, she recounted to me the heartbreaking details of my family's experience during Cambodia’s Killing Fields for the first time in her life. As she spoke, I was overcome with a sense of history and a connection to a past that had for so long been withheld from me.
The encounter sprung a need to learn more. I began talking with Cambodian-Americans across the country in an attempt to piece together our collective story - of trauma, displacement, and resilience - and to understand how this has affected the lives of Cambodian-Americans across generations. I discovered that the generational divide I experienced in my family was common amongst survivors and their children. In photographing these communities, I recognized the power such images have in generating discussion about this shared, yet often unvoiced legacy.
Last year, with support from the Magnum Foundation, I spent five months photographing in the Bronx, New York. The experience was personally transformative and strengthened my desire to continue documenting in Cambodian communities across the country.
With your support, I will build on the process I began years ago. I will first photograph in Philadelphia, where I spent considerable time as an organizer for a grassroots Cambodian American organization, the One Love Movement, founded and led by young Cambodian Americans like myself. From Philadelphia, I will travel to Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the largest Cambodian communities outside of Cambodia itself. I will photograph community members and create informal exhibitions to generate inter-generational discussion among community members. Your support will enable me to work on this project for nearly four months uninterrupted, covering my living, travel, and equipment expenses.
The time to act is now. As survivors gradually pass away, their children—many of whom, like myself, were born in refugee camps and raised in the US—harbor questions about their identity and family history. There is a need to make these untold stories heard. Like the generation after the Holocaust, Cambodians of my generation are uniquely capable of writing this narrative. It is this story that I seek to honor, preserve, and share with the world.
Pete Pin is a documentary photographer born in a refugee camp following the Cambodia genocide. Initially a high school drop out in the inner-city, he received his BA at the University of California at Berkeley where he graduated magna cum laude with high departmental honors and the award for the best honors thesis in his department. Pin purchased his first camera months before embarking on doctorate program at Berkeley in the Social Sciences and abandoned his studies to pursue photography. In 2010 Pin attended the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, where he was award the Allan L Modotti Scholarship. He is currently working on a long-term project on Cambodian diaspora.