This series is an ongoing photographic journey that began over three separate trips to South Korea. I first visited the country in 2014, aged 22, where I met my maternal family for the first time. We then reunited for a second time three years later, in 2017. The third visit, in 2019, was unplanned due to the sudden passing of my grandfather. My mother accompanied me each time, and we always stayed at her parents’ home – usually for about one to two months at a time. During these trips, we spent much of our free time exploring various cities across the country and enjoying the multitudes of food and culture.
My mother immigrated to the United States at the young age of 26, so she was also seeing many of these places for the first time. For her, the trips were her homecoming. For me, these collective experiences were only made possible through my connection to her.
For my mother, many scenes were met with a feeling of familiarity as she recognised the sights, sounds, and flavours of her childhood growing up in Seoul. But for me, the experiences were novel. My ear recognised the language, and the scenes and food were reminiscent of New York City’s own Koreatown. However, everything in the country seemed like an intensified version of the dull and desaturated Korean neighbourhoods I have experienced in the US. Somehow it felt so close to home, yet simultaneously so unfamiliar.
It is through this rhythm and chaos that I find myself imagining Korea as my own place of birth. Drawing on the vibrancy of the scenes displayed before me, I piece together an idea of home in an attempt to hold tighter to a place that was once a distant memory for my mother, and an altogether foreign place for me. Through this photographic journey, I am discovering my motherland through my lens as a Korean diasporic woman; reclaiming a place that was once unknown to me, while longing for a stronger connection to my ancestral home.