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Dessa Ely, 17

Mixed Chinese/European

New York

This series is about my experience being mixed asian. I’ve always found myself feeling disconnected to my Chinese side, but also not feeling fully white. Being mixed is the experience of not feeling like you belong, which is a very isolating and lonely feeling. This work is a series made up of emulsion lifts of different mixed asian people layered on top of their grandparents. My grandparents are people I’ve always felt distant from, and my distance from them represents the distance I feel from Chinese culture. My process uses emulsion lifts, which involves taking a polaroid image, cutting it up and soaking it in water. The emulsion, the part that contains the actual image, floats off of the polaroid and then will stick to whatever surface you put it on. The emulsion is vulnerable, and will cling to whatever surface it first touches. This is a parallel to the experience of being a person of colour in today’s world. You are isolated from your culture and forced to cling to whatever is closest. This makes us distant from our culture and our families, especially among the children who were born here. Through creating this series, I documented various mixed asian people, and through my documentation, I had conversations, we shared stories, and I was able to create a sense of community between us all. Now I feel less alone and less isolated and I was able to create a culture of my own.


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