PhotoWings Flash Grant Winner – Peter Pin

Peter Pin
"Migrations of Memory"

As one of the winners of our first Flash Grants, PhotoWings will work with the Peter to expand this photo-based intergenerational memory project to workshops and installations in Long Beach CA and Lowell, MA workshops and installations in Long Beach, CA, Philadelphia, PA and Lowell, MA and to create a project tool kit and curriculum for application, adaptation or inspiration.

Peter's project, I Am Khmer is a participatory, community-based project in development in collaboration with the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, student groups and community leaders that explores memory and identity in the Cambodian American community.

More than three decades after the Killing Fields, the aftermath persists in the Cambodian American community. It is felt in the silence between generations. Cambodians who lived through the genocide not only remain silent because they do not know how to speak of what they lived through, but often because they literally do not speak the same language as their Cambodian American children. In 2010, I set up a makeshift portrait studio in my grandmother’s garage in Stockton, California. That afternoon, right before I took her photo, she spoke of my family’s experience during the war for the first time in her life. I learned that among the few family possessions saved from before the war was a family portrait that had been buried during the revolution and later retrieved and brought to the U.S. I understood instinctively the significance of that portrait -- not as a photograph, but as a tangible connection to the life my family had in Cambodia before the Killing Fields that forever changed them and their generation. As my grandmother spoke, I felt a connection to a past that had for so long been withheld from me. That first portrait of my grandmother opened a story that I knew had to be told, though I could not yet imagine how to tell it. I spent time in Cambodian American communities across the country, the Bronx, Philadelphia, Lowell, Stockton and Long Beach, photographing inside homes, temples, on the streets -- building a visual narrative of the Cambodian American experience and the generational divide so distinctive to it. Not long into my project, I realized that simply photographing was not enough. I have been exploring how to use visual narrative and storytelling to build a space for conversationsacross generations. Over the years I have been invited into countless Cambodian homes to photograph. I have watched mothers and fathers pull out boxes of documents and photographs from the past, have witnessed as they share stories and experiences from the past with their children, often for the first time, as my grandmother had those years ago. Building off of these experiences, I Am Khmer seeks to empower young Cambodian Americans, born in the shadow of the Killing Fields, to become guardians of their family story. Through workshops and community installations in partnership with Cambodian community organizations and student associations, youth and community members are trained to interview, document, and share their family stories. They then document and share family ephemera saved from before the war or produced during stays in refugee camps. Having lost the entirety of their worldly belongings, these objects are often the only tangible bridge that connects the past with the present. Pete Pin is a Cambodian American Brooklyn based photographer. Born in the Khao-I-Dang refugee camp on the border of Cambodia and Thailand following the Cambodian Killing Fields and raised in California, his photography explores themes of memory, generational trauma, and identity in the Cambodian American diaspora community. A High School drop-out, Pin received his BA in Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley where he graduated with high honors and was awarded the Outstanding Honors Thesis Award and studied documentary photography at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.




Peter Pin was born in a refugee camp that his family fled to after the Cambodian genocide and has struggled most of his life to understand the legacy of his people. Since 2014, he has conducted photo-based intergenerational memory workshops across the United States in collaboration with community partners such as the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia and the National Cambodian American Heritage and Killing Fields Memorial in Chicago.  Through a series of three workshops sessions and a community installation, participants search for and photograph family ephemera connected to diaspora in their own families, interview family members about their family stories, produce written reflections about what they have learned, and contribute to a performative, generative community installation that maps diaspora and memory about the Cambodian American community.