GROWING UP IN Oregon was difficult because I was not able to find my identity. As the son of immigrants, I was one of the only Korean Americans at my school. My identity crisis was only amplified with my Baptist Christian background.
I was the typical churchgoing child until I went to college in California. I grew up in the church, I went to Sunday school, I sang on the praise team and I competed in a Bible story competition. But in college, I started to question my faith. I basically renounced it; it felt like a burden on my shoulders, and it constantly worried me.
This led to a few hard years as I started my career as a photojournalist, and covering difficult stories, I decided I would come back home to the Pacific Northwest. I had a mostly strained relationship with my family then, but I knew that living alone in California was not serving my heart.
As a photojournalist, I always see the world in moments. I always think, “Oh, that would have been a really great picture. How could I compose the image to tell a story?” When I came home and noticed a spiritual change in my family, I realized I wanted to photograph it. This would be a documentation of our history — through my eyes.
The result is a photo essay born out of the pandemic — I do not think this kind of first-person story would have come to fruition if I hadn’t spent a lot of time with my family.
Typically during the weekends, when I visit my family in Oregon, I do not pick up my camera. I associate my camera with work. But after I decided to document this story, the camera was always at my side. This is how I was able to capture candid moments of my family members as they praised the Lord together.
For photojournalists, much of our goal is to develop a deep level of trust with our subjects; that takes time and a lot of effort. It felt natural to photograph my family because I already had that trust built — I lived in their shoes.