I’ve set out on a personal photojournalism project to document the immigrant families that have claimed the Mills/50 area of Orlando their home. Mills/50 is known for its array of Vietnamese supermarkets and restaurants owned and operated by Vietnamese immigrants and refugees. Today, their children are at a crossroads as they decide to takeover the family business, run businesses of their own, or carve their own paths to success. In the midst of it all, young Asian Americans with immigrant parents are presented with uncharted territory as they navigate how they will continue to preserve their heritage in modern America.
For starters meet the Bui family.
The Bui family comes from 12 generations of traditional Vietnamese medicine. When Quat Bui hit the peak of his career as a medicine man in Vietnam, he decided to bring his family to the United States for a better quality of life. Quat took a job at minimum wage and went from being a “king to the bottom,” says Mau Bui, 24, Quat’s son. In 2015 the family opened their own traditional medicine shop in the heart of Little Vietnam in Orlando, FL. However Mau has found himself at a crossroads.
For Mau, practicing medicine has always been about helping people. As a biology student at UCF, he hopes to practice western medicine supplemented with traditional Vietnamese medicine. Yet dabbling in investments and helping with charity efforts in Vietnam has broadened his perspective on other ways in which he can contribute to the greater good. For the father who sacrificed so much to give his children a better life, there is no doubt that Mau will continue to help Quat run his medicine shop. Yet will he continue the family tradition?
I’ll also be documenting the upcoming inaugural Miss Vietnam Florida pageant in December 2017 – February 2018.Winning the crown means that for her one year reign, the Queen and the Princesses (runners up) must fulfill their duties as members of the royal court. Among their duties they must recruit and mentor the next class of contestants.
By documenting the Miss Vietnam Florida pageant I’ll explore the role of the Royal Court within an immigrant community.
The class of 2018 consists of aspiring biomedical engineers, and mental health counselors. Their hobbies include shopping, make-up, singing, cooking, serving the church, rock climbing, kickboxing, and playing the ukulele. If you ask the Miss Vietnam Florida class of 2018 if they ever thought of themselves as the “pageant type” you’d get a mixed bag of answers. Pageant director Cecilia Nguyen’s biggest challenge is often recruiting enough women who are willing to participate. “A lot of girls are intimidated,” Nguyen said.
On an ending note, I’ll be updating my website layout to reflect more of my recent work and new direction soon!