Studio Work / Documenting My Parents' Story
Two years ago, on a Wednesday evening, my father emailed me a few snaps of some old photos that he’d found at their house.
One was of my beautiful mother in her twenties. The other two were of me as a baby in the old apartment that we lived in back in Hong Kong with my grandparents. These were photos that I’d never seen before! I could hardly believe it.
Naturally, I gave my dad strict instructions to bring me all the old photos he could find so that I could do something with them. It took him a few weeks to get them all boxed up but, one Friday afternoon, they finally arrived on my doorstep.
I wept gently that first night. There were so many that I had never seen before—or that I didn’t remember ever seeing before. Perhaps I may have flicked through them as a little girl, but they certainly didn’t mean as much to me then as they do to me now.
As I looked through every single photo, it dawned on me once more how little I actually knew of my parents’ past. It was almost like seeing them for who they were—who they are—for the first time.
And so began a monumental project. The project’s purpose? To discover and document both my parents’ stories. The end goal? A series of hard cover books that would include both photos and words.
I started off by looking through each and every photo. From there, I attempted to gather information and collect stories from my parents. Knowing which questions to ask still remains the hardest part of this project: questions that effectively draw out both factual information and emotional context.
Moving homes last year almost brought the project to a complete standstill. But earlier this year, in an attempt to make the project feel a little more ‘tangible’ to myself, I started combining photos with words to create mock-ups of what the page layouts would look like.
Using my Canon Pixma, I scanned in some of my favourite photos at the highest resolution possible. With these digital files, I used Adobe InDesign to create various page layouts featuring white space, clean typography, and a minimalist design.
Being able to see these layouts in front of me gives me the motivation to persevere with this project. Indeed, I suspect that is what will continue to drive me—seeing the final product on my bookshelf (and my parents’ bookshelf) in my mind’s eye. As I often used to say to my students: begin with the end in mind, always.
There is still a long way to go, but I’m not about to give up.
I feel a bit like my dad in one of the photos: taking a leap of faith.
You can read the other posts in this series here.