Lance Han graduated from Parsons The New School for Design with a BFA in photography. He currently resides and works in Brooklyn, New York.
For four years, I have been photographing my parents in my hometown in New Jersey. As Korean Americans, we are often presented with obstacles due to our race and heritage. In my series, Bygones, I present images of identity, family, and racial conflict that my family has faced as Korean Americans.
Growing up I was told by friends, family, and even school teachers to be more “American”. To them, being “American” meant partaking in a white American lifestyle. My parents, on the other hand, disagreed; as immigrants from South Korea, they believed that the origin of our race and history was of the upmost importance. My parents chose to speak Korean instead of English, which was frequently a source of tension for our family. People in our community often treated us differently, and assumed that my parents were unable to keep up with the white American standards in society due to them struggling with English. Tensions rose in our household as I couldn’t understand why they chose to not participate in a traditionally American lifestyle. I began to distance myself from my parents, hoping that this would also distance me from the racial issues they faced, and my own Korean heritage.
It wasn’t until I left home did I begin to understand their decisions, and realize how important my Korean identity is to me. I decided to spend more time with my parents.
Returning home is now a new experience for me. It’s no longer about catching up with friends, or reliving past experiences – instead, it is about my parents. It’s about the memories I share with them, the stories they have told me, and the things they continue to teach me. Bygones has now become a collaborative project between my parents and myself; focusing on our Korean identity and how that has shaped our American lifestyle. This is an ongoing project.
To view more of Lance Han’s work please visit his website.