FREE THE WORK
Photograph by Tiffany Luong
Tiffany Luong is one of 20 Fellows who were awarded the inaugural Image Equity Fellowship. Learn more here.
Captions are excerpts from historical documents from the 1940s (interviews, immigration records). These fragments mirror the artist's own coming to understand her grandparents’ immigration journey - in little pieces, to weave the whole story together.
Wedding day,(reimagining December 1936) (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. How old were you when you were married?
A. Sixteen years old, Chinese reckoning
Q. Please describe your wedding
A. I arrived at my husband’s village by sedan chair. I do not remember who the guests were nor how many tables were set because I was not allowed to look.
Tiffany Luong stages imagined moments in her family history in order to expose the personal weight and lingering effects of immigration. Her series Reclamation is a restorative work; having been never told the details of her grandparent’s journey from Taishan (Toisan in Cantonese), China to the United States, Luong was motivated to fill in the gaps herself.
Kitchen flowers (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. Is that ring you are now wearing the one that your husband gave you after your wedding?
A. No he gave this ring to me on his last trip to China; the one he gave me after the wedding was sold for food during the Japanese occupation.
Through intensive research through resources like the National Archive Record Administration, Luong surfaced her grandparents’ immigration documents and entry interviews, and began to piece together an idea of their history. “Reclamation is me trying to figure out what made my grandparents who they were, what made my parents who they are, what made me who I am, and finally what I’m passing down to my own children,” Luong says.
Together (reimagining 1947) (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. Did you see your alleged husband in China prior to his last trip?
A. Yes I saw him last in July 1938 when he left for the U.S.
Q. How many children have you ever had?
A. One son
Farewell to my son (reimagining 1947) (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. Why did you not bring your son with you to the U.S. at this time?
A. My mother in law did not want to part with him
The images, made between Hong Kong, Guangdong, and California, while informed by her historical research, seek to inhabit the emotional space of her grandparents during their immigration rather than adhere to an idea of historical fact. Luong notes, “I realized that I didn’t have to do an accurate documentation, because I don’t actually know what happened exactly."
Train to Hong Kong, (reimagining 1947) (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. Describe your journey from the village when you came to take the ship to the U.S.
A. We left Min How village with a cooley carrying luggage. We went on foot to Goon Yick, took ferry to Canton City. Then we took train to Kowloon where we waited for our ship to come to the U.S.
"Instead, I could have artistic license and freedom. That was an important revelation—although I wanted to tell a true story. I don’t know the truth, because no one ever told me.”
Editorial statement by Aperture.
But we just got here (reimagining 1948) (2022) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
That I served in the United States Army during the Second World War I and was honorably discharged on November 15, 1945 at Fort MacArthur, California. That I am now desirous of taking my wife to the United States under the provisions of Public Law 271.
The Interrogation, (reimagining 1948) (2022) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Q. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, So Help You God?
Q. If you give false testimony you may be prosecuted for perjury. The penalty is imprisonment of no more than 5 years and a fine of no more than $2000. Do you understand?
Longing, (reimagining 1948) (2022) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Caption from Poem 7 found on the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station. Photo of Poem 135.
I ate wind and tasted waves for more than twenty days
I thought I could land in a few days.
How was I to know I would become a prisoner suffering in the wooden building?
Landed (reimagining 1948) (2022) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
Above-named subject was admitted to this port on April 1, 1948 ex SS General W. H. Gordon 3/24/48 as the wife of Chin A Jom.
Fourth generation (2023) by Tiffany LuongFREE THE WORK
My grandmother’s great-granddaughter stands in her ancestral village, giving her her flowers
Explore the other 2022 Image Equity Fellows’ final projects and learn more about the Fellowship here.