A Speech of Thanks

The text of my speech delivered at Gallery Mark in the glitzy neighborhood of Cheongdam in Seoul, Korea on the opening night of my photography exhibition, “The Way They Are” on November 13, 2014 read as follows:

“My parents got me my first camera when I was in 6th grade and for the next three years, I didn't touch it. Then rather suddenly in 2011, my camera and I became inseparable. It was as if I'd grown an extra limb. What changed? What was the catalyst for my love for photography? What was it that catapulted me into the art of creating images?

I suspect it was travel. The year of 2011, three important things happened. The first was a trip to Cambodia where my brother, my mom and I volunteered at a school in the village of Knar. The second was a school trip, a group of perhaps twenty, across a stretch of cities in North India. 

And then the last of which some of you may be familiar: I left my family and my home in Singapore to fly, ducking for forty hours through airports in Moscow and Houston, Texas to a small town in Ecuador. This is where my photography began...with what would become four years of travel with Think Global School. 

I've always been a lucky person. Not in a lottery-ticket-jackpot kind of way but in the kind that matters. Good friends, great family, dedicated teachers. Lots of wonderful books. And I knew that being able to travel was perhaps one of the greatest strokes of luck in my life. What photography became for me was a way of sharing what I was seeing and learning every day. The faces that beat down stereotypes. My Afghan friend at the beach. A goat sacrifice for Eid al-Adha where (in case your first thought was as mine was - that that is animal cruelty), the meat in fact went first to the most impoverished people in the community.

I photographed what startled me. A beggar's smile. A massive volcano. Sharks in the water. I photographed because especially starting out as a ninth grader, there were so many things I just didn't have the words for yet and because I knew I was unbelievably lucky to be exposed to the world in this way.

My ultimate goal was to share and now with the generosity and faith of so many incredible individuals in this room, that has become possible. This is so overwhelming. Because as much as I joked about all of these things happening, this dream being realized is still a surprise. It still feels unexpected and so scary and so great. And I have so many people to thank. 

To 천대표님 and the curator 언니 here at Gallery Mark, my publishers, 박대표님 and 박이사님 at Mujin Tree, my teachers at Woori Studio and friends and teachers at school and my family at home — thank you. Thank you for giving me a chance where many would not have, and for believing in my art and writing and for believing in me. Thank you Mom, Dad, for having patience in my melodramatic artist ways. And - last one - thank you all for your support, coming out in this freezing cold weather to share this special evening with me.”