2018

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I keep thinking of how to reflect on 2018 and the longer I wait, the less I have to say. I don’t know if it’s capitalism or comparison (or both) but somehow I’ve come out of another hectic year feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.

This isn’t true, of course. I had more range in assignments than I’ve ever had. And as a photographer that hasn’t committed to one specific genre, it’s made me reflect on the privilege I have to even bear witness to these stories. From reporting on food insecurity in rural Oregon to shooting an entire cookbook filled with delicious (and sometimes expensive) seafood galore, flying last minute across the world to covering poverty in my new home state, how do I balance this spectrum of stories?

I hope I can always tell them with an honest lens.

I felt frantic most of this year, but the wake of what’s happened still feels right. I see it as a year having already found my voice, then learning what else it could do (forever striving for Mariah octaves figuratively and literally tbh).

My spirits soared in the most unexpected moments (BBC! Obama Foundation! cookbooks!), but my heart broke in a way that still devastates me.

I’ve grown to fear less when speaking up, or I’ve become numb to it. Advocacy will never not be exhausting, but it will always be necessary. I’ll continue to say no to unpaid labor, and speak up even though the system was made to silence us. And I’ll keep going, because I can’t bear the idea that it might never get better.

I spent a lot of this year angry. Which, to be fair, isn’t unusual for me (there is a lot to be angry about!), but the anger itself was from something new. I thought about all the time marginalized artists spend needing to be extra careful, extra good, extra everything to perform extra labor. To have the difficult conversations, and navigate a society and industry that was built by excluding them. But still creating, and still persisting. Because we can’t not, and these conversations are critical to both our art and our being.

And then I tried to imagine a world where the extra wasn’t needed. Where we could put our full hearts and equally distributed resources toward what we care about the most. Thinking outside any need to fight or contextualize oppression, and just create. Just be.

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The Los Angeles Arboretum.

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Outside Bonnie Slotnick’s.

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My first ever solo exhibit at UNA Gallery, featuring Portland in Color. By Vy Hong Pham.

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Making a home, and our first snow together.

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Marshall Johnson sitting for a tattoo by Alice Kendall for the Audobon Society.

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Da Vinci middle schoolers protest during March for Our Lives, a nationwide student-organized protest calling for gun reform.

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Part of the Racist Sandwich team at the La Cocina Conference in San Francisco, California.

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DeRay McKesson for Street Roots.

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Abdulah Polovina, imam of a mosque at the Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization in Portland, Oregon for Street Roots.

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Young girls in low income housing in Ontario, Oregon as reported for part of the Housing Rural Oregon series for Street Roots.

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DJ and activist Cay Horiuchi for Portland in Color.

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Michelle and Alex along the California coast in their van, Bobby.

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Food writer and host of A Hungry Society, Korsha Wilson.

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Angela Flying Eagle at First Christian Church food pantry in Ontario, Oregon; on assignment for Street Roots.

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Molly Woodstock, host of Gender Reval podcast, photographed for Portland in Color.

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Leaving Orcas Island.

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Halawa Valley, Molokai.

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The sand bar, Oahu.

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Penny Rawlins Martin, the first and youngest woman to sail between Tahiti and Hawai'i on the inaugural Hokulea voyage, for Misadventures Magazine.

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A poke picnic on Oahu.

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Across the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. We started in Barra and made our way north to Harris and Lewis.

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Behind the scenes for Yana Gilbuena's upcoming book, No Forks Given, due out September 2019.

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Morning in San Jose del Cabo.

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Summer in Portland and Stockholm.

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The oyster beds at Chelsea Farms in Olympia, Washington for the upcoming book Pacific Northwest Seafood by Naomi Tomky.

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Scenes from Calabria— Chianalea, Scilla, Tropea, and Civita— on assignment for Airbnb.

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Mama's first time in France, Villefranche-sur-Mer.

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Paris with my sisters, on film.

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Ma enjoying a moment on a tiny balcony in Nice— not only the highlight of my year but a forever highlight in my heart.


My days have blurred together, but I’m trudging forward, hoping that every little bit is adding up somewhere. Hoping that someone is keeping count.

Here’s to another year of doing our best.

In light and solidarity,
Celeste

2017

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If this 2017 recap feels late it's because it was a harder year to digest. I've always been anxious for a new start, and while the same is still true, this time it was harder to start again with so many lingering loose ends.

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This year I was my most proud when redefining what it meant to be an artist for myself. I spent three months in an artist residency, committed to a weekly portrait series, and dedicated more time than I ever have to personal projects. I shot weddings thousands of miles away, partnered with women to tell their stories, and tried my best every day.

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The privilege of being an artist and the responsibility of using my voice weighed on me heavily. 

But it also became clear that it's unrealistic for me to take on this weight alone. I'm so thankful to my community, especially the communities of color, that teach me the delicate balance of self care and self preservation (especially when the two blur together).

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It's easy for me to look back and tally up what I wish I'd accomplished, but as I think I once read from Bill Wurtz, "I'm working as fast as humanly possible." Because being human means leaving room for weeks of dreaming, the days you never want to see your work again, and the 2ams when you finally hit your stride. It's not just the work in progress, but the also the progress in work.

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As I continue to freelance, I'm becoming more patient with what I expect from myself and more relentless of what I want to see in the world. They feel impossible, but I think they can coexist.

Thank you to everyone who values my work, validates my voice, encourages me to stay angry, and sees me, even when I'm hiding behind the lens.

All my very best,
Celeste

PS - Thank you to everyone who's supported and donated to keep my series, Portland in Color, running. I'm aiming to be back with new features come February.

PPS - I'll leave you with these few links:

Before a broadcast to 11 million people with BBC World Service
Portland in Color featured in local activist newspaper Street Roots
An interview on the privilege of freelance with Freelancer's Union
Commemorating the women who came before me in a piece about financial anxiety for On She Goes
 

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portland in color | 016: the chiu family

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Today we have a very special edition of Portland in Color— our first family feature! Making space for creativity in the home can be both a challenge and a privilege. As daunting as creative careers might be, pursuing them while also providing for a family feels tenfold.

I often think of how my upbringing helped shape the artist I am today. I don't have memories of arts and crafts with my mother because as a single parent in a low income household, she was usually working. But she saved every single piece of art I brought home. Sometimes I would dig through boxes and find drawings I thought I'd thrown away. She told me she didn't get to keep anything from when she was young, so she holds onto everything she can now and I think this is why I'm a photographer. We might not have had a creative home in the traditional sense, but creativity was born from it nonetheless.

I'm so excited for our guests today because not only are they making and organizing art that benefits the community (think: massive murals and zines galore), but they also welcome us to see how creativity flourishes in their home in the shape of the CUTEST cooking show ever. Somehow, I overcame my starstruck wonder to spend a morning with the delightful and hilarious Chius, making popcorn à la The Mazzy Show, drawing three-eyed Mazzys, and eating books. 

Seeing families like theirs is a breath of hurricane popcorn air, and the future feels so bright.

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Name:  Alex, A’misa and Mazzy Chiu

Pronouns: He/Him, She/Her, “I’m a Mazzy” 

Background: 

Alex: I’m second generation Chinese American. My parents emigrated from Hong Kong to California in the 70’s. I grew up in Irvine. I moved to San Diego in 2003 to study Visual Arts at UCSD and got a degree in Media Studies. I am currently a professional illustrator, arts educator, and stay at home dad here in Portland.

A’misa: II’m a yonsei Nikkei, which means I’m a fourth generation Japanese American. I was born in Oakland, raised in Gardena/Torrance in Los Angeles, CA, within a very large Asian American community. I met Alex while studying art history/architecture in San Diego more than a decade ago. We’ve been partners (in art and in life) for many years. We’ve lived in Portland for 6 years now. I miss the food of LA and my family as the years tick on; I just wish it was more open to weirdo artists in the way that Portland embraces us.

Mazzy: Mazzy is 3, likes slime, persimmons and is way more well known than either of her parents (which they are cool with). 

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Medium of choice: 

Alex: I consider myself to be a cartoonist. I tend to draw and paint. I currently have the ambition to paint murals. I also have the ambitions to create stop motion animations.

A’misa: I’m a zinester and illustrator, who makes zines on my personal experiences. I’m most proud of the zine that I did on my abortion experience when I was 21. It took me 10 years to write, it has been a long healing process. I also am a college research librarian and I organize a lot of zine and art fests.

Mazzy: The Mazzy show on Youtube.


Astrological signs: 

Alex: Libra
A’misa: Aries
Mazzy: Libra

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Karaoke jam: 

Alex: “Basketcase” by Green Day

A’misa: “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees and “Gold Lion” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Mazzy: Johnny Johnny Song


Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: 

Alex: My friend Wally and I collaborated on a project that involved paper mache monster costumes. The night we finished painting them, we walked over to Domino’s pizza and ordered a pizza in our monster outfits. We also did a little dance in the parking lot. The workers were pretty excited about it.

A’misa: One of the most powerful times I’ve had in Portland was at the APANO Organizing Retreat. It reminded me of church camps that I used to attend as a kid, but instead of a religious focus, it was a 2 day training on how to be better community organizers. It was more than just a learning experience. In sharing our families migration stories, I realized that while my family was being incarcerated in concentration camps by the US government for being of Japanese descent, the Japanese from Japan were occupying many of the Micronesian Islands, such as Palau. These conversations made me realize that my history stems in oppression, both as the oppressed and the oppressor. I wish I had a chance to learn these histories when I was younger, and further encourages me to tell my own kids true history. I also am thankful for being able to help out with Intersect Fest and Tender Table

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: 

Alex: Moving to Portland was a big deal for A’misa and I. We were moving into a new city and pretty much started from scratch with only what we could fit into our Toyota hatchback. I worked my ass off for the first two years working odd jobs in retail, coffee, and teaching. At one point, I was the only one making money while Ann was in school for library science. There were a few times when I couldn’t keep up with our bills and our debit card was overdrawn. The feeling was desperate and terrifying. It was difficult to ask my parents for money to keep us in the city. I am extremely thankful for our current situation. Things are easier now.

A’misa: Personally, I struggled a lot in the first 2 years of living here. Many of the people that we initially met through the comics and art world were white, and while everyone was pretty nice and inclusive of us, I still had trouble feeling connected. I never really felt that I could be myself. Sometimes I still have those feelings. Portland can be very unlike how I grew up, and I miss the very connectedness of Asian community: you know where everyone is your auntie and cousin, and the hospitality is so warm. Though, I don’t miss the obligation and shame that also comes with that connectedness either. Alex and I worked a lot of odd jobs in the first few years, and life didn’t seem to slow down, it still hasn’t. I was also in school to become a librarian and faced quite a few microaggressions from professors and classmates. This made me start seeking out other students of color, and other artists of color. 

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? 

Alex: In all honesty, Portland has been a very positive place for my creative growth. Being an artist in Los Angeles was far more difficult for me. Since I moved here, I joined a small drawing group with a group of people that I respect and enjoy very much. I’ve been given opportunities to teach, perform at comics reading events, hang my work on walls, and paint murals. After having a kid, it is more of a challenge to stay motivated to create new work. The main reason that I started The Mazzy Show was to have a creative outlet while also being a parent.

A’misa: I am very thankful for Intersect Fest, Tender Table, Women of Color Zine Collective and the zine and comics community. The creatives of color that work so hard to keep our little artistic communities running have my deepest respect, admiration, and appreciation. I wouldn’t have stayed here as long as I have without this community. Zinesters by far, have my heart, and I will never stop making zines. For me, it is a very pure art form that is highly accessible and affordable to both make and to consume. Also I’m thankful for my POC librarians networks. They keep me fueled up and ready to tackle all of the information and literacy issues this country is facing. Librarians are such bad-asses. 

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How can Portland support you and/or your community? 

Alex: Being a parent has been a very significant life change for me. I feel very disconnected from people. On occasions, A’misa lets me slip out to an art show or go draw with some buddies of mine. Those moments seem more significant to me than they had before. If we do manage to table at an event or perform, please come out and join us. These moments are special to us. 

A’misa: Please keep coming out to the zine/art/comics/poetry/performance events. Especially when these art communities in Portland can be overwhelmingly white, your presence and support is everything. It truly is. Buying some zines is always appreciated too! 

Keep up with the Chius by following their work on Instagram (Alex, A'misa, Mazzy) and their websites alexdoodles.com and amisachiu.com. See Mazzy in all of her adorable glory on Facebook and Youtube!

Portland in Color will be taking a holiday break! We'll be back in the new year with new features and are grateful for donations to keep the series going.

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