Maria Lau began using photography as a means of documentation and visually writing history. Her artwork then expanded into multi-disciplinary photographic based storytelling; referencing history, memory, and dream states, while employing both traditional and digital photo techniques. Based on her Cuban-Chinese heritage, she explores themes of culture, family, oral history and shared cultural experiences. The materials used to illustrate narratives range from multi-exposure photography, collage, installation and text.
Her work can be seen at: www.marialau.com
The following images and text are from our talk with Maria Lau :
"I originally started photography as a student. I was a Latin American History student and I was studying anthropology. I only started doing photography because I wanted to supplement my field studies... and I started photography and never looked back. I'm was born here, Cuban-American born here and my whole idea of Cuba, my relationship with Cuba is this division, you know with us and them. When I decided to go to Cuba I didn't necessarily have a set project in mind but I knew that there were these unanswered questions that I had about Cuba... I was going to go to Cuba and photograph and create two narratives at the same time, looking at the same moment in time from two different perspectives... I carried one camera that had color film and black and white and another camera that only would have infrared."
"I got my first show at the Jersey City museum with the Cuba photos. The show was reviewed by the New York Times. So when the show gets reviewed by the New York Times I start getting recognition for the work in Cuba. Really, all my work with Cuba ended up being very personal very family oriented. My uncle in Cuba had asked me on that first trip to help find his half sisters that were born in China because he didn't have any resources to do that in Cuba. I told him I would try. So I ended up going back to Cuba and I end up looking for information on my grandfather. I start doing the research going to chinatown, going to the archives, there was no information, but in the meantime I'm actually photographing and getting a sense of what was left of this chinese population that was once the largest chinatown in the americas."
"...by the time I go back to Cuba to do this work, I have already experienced this kind of unknown, or the things that i thought I didn't know about Cuba. I realized so much that we were more alike than we thought, because of the politics that had separated us and the things that had happened. And I really understood then that we were actually more of a mixed heritage. We were all of these layers of history and heritage together. And so for me, the process needed to reflect where I was personally and for me, photography has always been that the process should or if you can, you know, I'm trying to find a way to reflect where you are, with your story or your research or whatever it is."