Pete Pin documents the lives of Cambodian-Americans. He was born in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border to parents who had escaped the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. Eventually he and his family were resettled in Stockton, California. As Pin himself writes, “The refugees were some of the most heavily traumatized and displaced people in modern memory having survived not only the Killing Fields, but also the arduous trek to sites of refuge, in addition to living and languishing in refugee camps.”
- Over three decades have passed since the Killing Fields era, but its shadows can still be felt in the silence between generations of the diaspora and the struggles of the community. Cambodians who lived through the genocide remain silent because they do not know how to speak of what they lived through, and because they literally do not speak the same language as their Cambodian-American children. There remains a profound sense of loss and fragmentation when it comes to family and historical narratives. We are disconnected because of intergenerational trauma – elders having survived the Killing Fields, and their American children having survived the inner city.
Pin’s photographs effectively bridge that gap. In Here/There he juxtaposes images of family members and others in his community as they appear today with photographs of objects that are reminders of their traumatic pasts. Together, the images communicate experiences that have long gone unmentioned. In contrast many of the works in his series The Longest Shadow reveal the ways a younger generation of Cambodian-Americans have assimilated into American life while still trying to maintain something of their cultural identity.
Image: Pete Pin. Born in the Khao-I-Dang Refugee Camp, Thailand, 1982. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Untitled from The Longest Shadow, 2011. Archival pigment print. Lent by Pete Pin. ©2016 Pete Pin