SAID/UNSAID

Tom Bathing, 2014

Tom Bathing, 2014

 
 

Said/Unsaid is an on-going photographic exploration of my kin and childhood home. I was raised below the poverty line on a commune of sorts, in the Appalachian region of the American Southeast. We still call this property the Ridge. There, over the past three decades, my father has built several houses entirely out of salvaged materials. These homes are architectural hybrids that echo the amalgamous lives that inhabit them.

During my childhood, our scavenger lifestyle was presented as a conscious refusal to join the Capitalist (money-hungry) ethos of American society in the 1980’s. I was told to consider hunger of the belly more noble than the desire to possess. At some point I realized that much of that rhetoric was soaked in mind-altering substances, and left home at sixteen.

In 2005, my father entered an arranged marriage with a Cambodian woman named Chorvry Tek. At the time, I was also on the other side of the world. Years later, I found a video clip of their nuptial parade through her home village in a documentary made by Fugue State Films. The distance felt strange, like a hole to crawl into.

Their partnership has since driven a shift in the culture and community of the Ridge from a white, Southern bohemianism towards something more grounded, conscious of the world outside and present. As those changes occur, these ways of being - one aging and one unfurling - exist side by side. This project is my way of documenting those juxtapositions while forging and mending relationships with loved ones. It is a process of recognition.

The emerging generation, almost entirely of mixed race and cultural heritages, are in possession of a direct gaze. They are aware. For better or worse, they have access to technology and media, to information and obfuscations. Said/Unsaid is a record of a particular clan, at a specific time and place, seen through the eyes of an adult child returning to their homeland. I see family. I see complicity. I see transformation and I see grace.