Immigration is propelled by suffering. To witness the shifting patterns of populations is to see the world in all its exigencies: war, natural disasters, repression, famine, poverty and persecution. But there is a hope at the bottom of that Pandora’s box of troubles: the hope that propels immigrants to settle in strange lands. To contrast the bleak, black-and-white lives of the Chinese men living in the US, Chien-Chi Chang chose to use colour when photographing their families in China.
The last 22 years of developing these relationships are now culminating in a three-generational drama. Some of the first waves of illegal immigrants are now choosing to return to China to enjoy the prosperity they have created there and spend the rest of their lives with family members they have not seen for nearly two decades. Yet their sons still choose to be smuggled to New York, leaving their own families behind. Divided families remain divided.
The compelling quality of this project is its universality. It is about the essential human need to hope for the future and about being willing to sacrifice one’s immediate happiness in order to fulfil the dream of giving one’s children a ‘better’ life. But is economic prosperity worth the social cost? Perhaps the answers to these questions can be found in the lives of the people left behind in China and in those of the second and third generation immigrants growing up in the United States. Look at them, and listen to their voices. You may not understand their language, but you can feel their longing.