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californian doxology (2022)

as a "1.5 generation" korean-american, my upbringing has unquestionably directed my faith journey as a christian. I had grown up in korean churches, which served as not only spiritual houses but also as crucial community centers and surrogate families for immigrants. it never occurred to me that the typical american evangelical sunday experience was to spend an hour in service then rush to brunch. we always ate lunch together in the church dining hall, then loitered in the church for several hours more. religion and faith have always been intimately related to community for me.


for more than a few families, attending church was less about piety and more about retaining a cultural lifeline. this heralds to the beginnings of the korean-american diaspora, when missionaries and church denominations would sponsor korean immigrants as cheap laborers. church was, paradoxically, an ethnic gathering place where koreans learned to be more american while being exploited by americans.


this project is a visual documentation of how I encounter christianity in california. the photos are largely taken at my home church, ark mission, in carmichael. they are accompanied by photos taken at mission santa clara, which serves as the student chapel at santa clara university, as well as photos from my archives. these images are a challenge to the unwritten rule that the christian faith is valid only when it conforms to american protestant or roman catholic doxology (liturgical formula of praise to God). I imagine a world where christianity was spread without the violence of colonization yet must reconcile my love for the church as a christian and my criticism for it as a person of color. this is my prayer, in photographic format, that all tribes and peoples be honored in their expressions of faith as they worship together.

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