Beauty Beyond Scars | Lean

Hello Folks. I am back with another installment of Beauty Beyond Scars! It's a project I've kept dear to my heart, although I haven't gain too much traction in the past year. I definitely like to hear from people and their stories, so I'll keep going.

I met with my buddy Lean in the recent weeks. We've been crossing paths as of late. We were friends back in college, way back, but didn't really have enough sit downs and conversations until recently. That's because Lean is always traveling, and so am I. We don't live in the same city, but the stars aligned. I learned about Lean's recent experiences. Tie that to Lean's sense of self awareness and fashion, I had to do a photoshoot. It is a form of healing for the both of us; in front of and behind the lens. Lean is beautiful inside and out.

" It’s been a month since my world has been shook. The PTSD creeps up when I’m driving. When I’m working. When I’m at weddings. When I hold my baby nephew. I’m not really sure when I will fully heal, when I’ll stop waking up in tears, but I do know that slowly, steadily, I’ll get free."

"Heartbreak from cheating and betrayal has been toxic to my soul. The pain is isolating. And somehow, the pain is also resonating. So many women and femmes have reached out with their heartbreaks - of when they forgave them self - of when they walked out - of when they stayed and built sand castles of men that were gravel. Even in pain and growth, we blossom."

"I have been finding myself at boba shops. In my friend’s hands. On their shoulders. In shared smoke sessions. I am slowly putting a puzzle back. It’s only been possible with the rose waters of loved ones. When asked will I ever be friends with those that betrayed me. I respond: why would I dilute my mana?"

- Lean

Lao New Year, April 2017

Hello Folks,

April is always a crazy month. Why? Because on top of my daily work, dance, and travel grind, Lao New Year takes place every weekend!

If you don't know, the majority of Southeast Asian Countries (mainland not island) celebrate the same New Year. This includes but is not exclusive to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and parts of other surrounding countries. Many know the term of New Years as Songkran which is what Thailand calls it. The official beginning and ending of our New Years was April 13th and April 15th respectively. In Laos, it's a 5-Day National Holiday.

In America, it's a month worth of New Years activity. Celebrations every weekend generally include a parade, dance performances, music performances, and Theravada Buddhist ceremonies. 

I had the opportunity to photograph a few of the festivities in between MC-ing and performing at the same event. As packed as my schedule was, I had my camera with me. I was able to shoot the parade at one of San Diego's main Lao Temples, Wat Lao Buddharam, along with a Lue New Years event at night. (Lue is an ethnicity of Laos, which has over 40). I was also able to photograph the parade in Saginaw, Texas, at Wat Lao Thepnimith. Saginaw's New Year event is known to be the biggest in the states. It was my first time out there. There was a compelling desire to see the parallels between the two cities along with documenting the people, place, and the soul of the celebrations. What made me happy was to see people happy; they truly shined through the lens and gave me their unfiltered joy. Loved feeling that. Colorful amount of people and quite welcoming. 

Check out each event, which has a unique but all encompassing story to share.

Lao New Year - Wat Lao Buddharam - San Diego, CA

Lue New Year - Ly's Garden - San Diego, CA

Lao New Year - Wat Lao Thepnimith

For some, there is purpose in preserving tradition and grasping history to identify who we are. For others, there is a drive to push, move on, and assimilate into mainstream American culture as this is now their only home; raising families and a new generation . For many refugees who've gone through war and escaped Laos to get here, it pains them to think about the past in that sense, so culture is what keeps many anchored in their identity. I feel that culture is a living, breathing concept. We live, and collectively, culture represents us as an organism that must adapt to current conditions. Its foundation rests in what has been rooted for hundreds of years, but years in our current atmosphere can and must contribute to our culture. This is why I feel it's my duty to capture these moments and the people who live them. Snapping the present while being present motivates me to do this. I am also interested in what we can create in writing, art, and the world of science. Many beautiful developments are happening in Lao America, sharing this is important to me.

Hope you enjoyed looking at the photos!

Till next time,

~Pilot #17

Edouard, the man and his Coffee

I went to visit my friend Jasmine at a coffee joint where she works for my lunch break. Upon chilling there, an old man walked in around a half hour later. He got his coffee, walked to my table, and asked if anyone was sitting here. It was only me; no other chair. I told him I was sitting here and he asked if he can join. I gave him my chair and got another one. 

We started chatting. His name was Edouard, originally from France. 91 Years old. Living in New York for the longest time, then retiring in San Diego for quite some time (30-40 years). He was a happy man, blessed to be walking and takes frequent visits to this coffee shop before strolling around the area. 

Our conversation about life, living in San Diego, and loving the moments we have, were great reminders to me. I told him I only hope to live and see the world as long as he has. I'm currently 28. Edouard was a fine aged gentlemen. Real stylish too. I had to ask if I cold take a photo of him. He cheerfully agreed. I had my phone on me so I started taking portraits. All of these were taken with a Google Pixel XL

He gladly accepted my request to take portraits. "Print them and give them to me." he says.

He gladly accepted my request to take portraits. "Print them and give them to me." he says.

I printed 3 photos. I told him I would give it to him as a gift. He says he usually returns to the coffee joint. Jasmine will deliver it to him. Felt like his conversation with me was a gift, so I had to give something back. Cheers to Edouard. Thank You for that spontaneous period of talk. 

Till next time, Buddy. Keep smiling, keep strolling through life.

Till next time, Buddy. Keep smiling, keep strolling through life.

~ Snap Pilot #17