Mai TONG Yang
Born in a refugee camp and raised in Saint Paul, MN, Mai Tong Yang is captivated by the movement and natural lines around her. She is interested in producing beautiful works that deliver messages about identity, heritage, and stories. Mai primarily enjoys portraiture but plans to focus more on fashion photography with an emphasis on texture, movement, and details. Mai has produced digital work in event, product, and portraiture photography.
INTRINSIC depicts the timelessness and natural beauty of Hmong fashion. Here, historical pieces from the Center for Hmong Studies and personal items, have been styled with modern day wear. These images were created to pay tribute and appreciation to the artistry of Hmong and Miao traditional wear and jewelry. I approached this concept with my own heritage and captivation for fashion, style, and culture in mind. Despite this seemingly selfish approach, I do believe that many individuals will feel the same after seeing the vibrancy and intricacy of each item. Although clothing and accessories were painstakingly selected, I went in without much of a plan aside from the idea that I wanted to create something real, a self-representation of Hmong/Miao fashion without the appropriation of textiles, prints, or jewelry.
To me, Hmong/Miao clothing and jewelry are so stunning on their own, I wanted the presence of the item itself to direct the results so my assistant and I improvised as we worked on each outfit. We wanted the focus to be on the clothing but also to enhance them, thus, I chose to minimize everything else; light, props, makeup, etc. Mainstream fashion has often borrowed, stolen, and been inspired by ethnic wear. This can be seen in a BCBG Max Azria campaign, in I-D Magazine covers and Mainland China magazines and runways, “Aztec” print scarves or bags in Target with pompoms and heavy floral embroidery. INTRINSIC breaks down Hmong/Miao outfits as well as modern everyday clothing and reutilizes them to represent our heritage in an authentic way; Hmong and American.
Right now I struggle because I don't have the right resources. I can’t bring myself to claim the title of ‘artist’ and so it makes it hard for me to network or find time and money to better myself. Obviously, practice, and the opportunity to structure my time and tasks at developing my artistry would help a lot. Also having a schedule and deadlines would help me learn better and would hold me accountable.