A Land of Shadows

A Land of Shadows is an inquiry into immigrant Chinese life in rural 19th century California—a communal life that was itinerant, vulnerable, preyed upon, resilient, and centrally important in the state’s and the nation’s history.  Taking its title from a traditional Chinese metaphor for the domain of the ancestors, the project integrates my own photographs of the remnants of Chinese settlement in the Sierra Nevada foothills and the Sacramento Delta areas into a forgotten compendium of government mug shots of Chinese immigrants, made by D.D. Beatty in Downieville, circa 1890.  The result is a remade book, part document, part poetic archaeology.  By asking historic and contemporary pictures alternately to intervene on and slip away from one another, the new book addresses disjunctions and silences within the historical experience of the Chinese American community, and the difficulty of their formation as memory.