My editor at The New Yorker informed me not long ago that Independent Mothers made it into Photo Booth's top ten hall of fame for most clicks, and was picked up by The New York Times in their “What We’re Reading” column. Internazionale in Italy and the Stuttgarter Zeitung in Germany was also quick to pick up the series. The overall response to this project has been overwhelming, and I believe the interest is due largely to the project's ability to highlight the strength and independence of single mothers in Iceland while bringing to question the treatment of single mothers elsewhere. Mere minutes after the post went online, the Embassy of Iceland in the US re-tweeted it, lauding "the strong women of Iceland", setting an example for the rest.
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Early last Easter Sunday morning, I had the pleasure to witness masses of Chinese families descending upon their ancestors' graves at Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County with writer Sarah Kramer for the New York Times. The resulting essay "Chinese Families Celebrate Qingming Festival in New York" was published today in the Sunday Metropolitan section of the paper.
Aside from being a beautiful ceremony, it was also a deeply nostalgic experience as it brought me back to my early childhood memories in Taiwan, participating in the Qing Ming Festival and in funerals of my grandfather and lost loved ones.
When I first moved to New York nearly five years ago, I lived by Chatham Square in Chinatown - a key intersection of major arteries and streets in the neighborhood. One such street is lined with traditional Chinese funeral homes, tomb engravers and Buddhist funeral supplies stores. The constant flow of funeral processions juxtaposed with a park teeming with youth across the street dramatizes the ephemeral like a chorus with perpetual rises and falls.
I often visited and eventually befriended a small business owner on this Mulberry Street who would spend his days building mansions and dolls out of paper. Cars, clothing, jewelry, Rolex watches, electronics, games, snacks, even dentures and floss - all made out of cardboard, are sold in colorful array along with joss paper money to families to burn and send up to their departed loved ones.
At Kensico cemetery, one family of five generations came together to feast with their ancestors. A mother and son pair visited their family's grave with humble home-cooked offerings. New memories were made as young and old congregated for hours at the cemetery amidst the aroma of roast pigs while popping firecrackers and ashes filled the air.
This was truly one of my favorite assignments to date. In less than a week, I met over two dozen individuals sharing space in six different neighborhoods throughout NYC. It was a blast working with such a variety of people and situations: a house of aspiring actors, couples sharing space with other couples, an unlikely pair of seniors, a Jewish student housing community/kibbutz, a drag queen coupled with an art director, and so on...
Usually, I'm asked to work digitally but in this case, the wonderful editors at New York Magazine encouraged me to use film (a medium I often favor for personal projects).
Thanks to the genius and hard work of my editors Roxanne Behr and Jody Quon who put this all together, and Jhoanna Robledo for writing this fun and insightful piece.
Here are some of my favorite outtakes including extras from more roommate shoots while on assignment.
See it online here.
Today's cover story for the Sunday Metropolitan section in The New York Times features a sorted academic tale that ends in false identity conviction. Read the full article here. It's quite a fascinating read. Also, great reporting by John Leland.
I met the convicted Raphael Golb in his cluttered West Village apartment a week after the state supreme court handed down a decision to sentence Golb to six months in prison. A week later, I photographed Lawrence H. Schiffman, the prime target of Golb’s online activities, in Schiffman's office at Yeshiva University.
Below are published images and selected outtakes from both shoots.