Daily Picture Show

Documenting Life Beyond The Killing Fields

  • Sonny Vaahn, 25, holds his family's refugee identification in the Bronx, N.Y. The card was issued to them during their initial entry into a refugee camp along the Thai-Cambodian border after the "killing fields" atrocities ended in Cambodia.
    Hide caption
    Sonny Vaahn, 25, holds his family's refugee identification in the Bronx, N.Y. The card was issued to them during their initial entry into a refugee camp along the Thai-Cambodian border after the "killing fields" atrocities ended in Cambodia.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Sovann Ith, 23, sits alongside his grandmother, Somaly Ith, 83, in their living room in the Bronx, N.Y. The apartment complex was once predominantly Cambodian but is now home to five families.
    Hide caption
    Sovann Ith, 23, sits alongside his grandmother, Somaly Ith, 83, in their living room in the Bronx, N.Y. The apartment complex was once predominantly Cambodian but is now home to five families.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • This Cambodian Buddhist Temple in the Bronx, N.Y., was collectively founded and financed in 1981 by community members shortly after their arrival to the U.S. There is little engagement by the youth in temple activities, and many elders fear the eventual disappearance of the temples after the passing of the first generation.
    Hide caption
    This Cambodian Buddhist Temple in the Bronx, N.Y., was collectively founded and financed in 1981 by community members shortly after their arrival to the U.S. There is little engagement by the youth in temple activities, and many elders fear the eventual disappearance of the temples after the passing of the first generation.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Thon Khoun, 47, cooks in her kitchen in the Bronx, N.Y. Khoun immigrated as a refugee in 1985 and is a single mother of four. Like many Cambodian refugees, she speaks no English and her children are incapable of speaking Khmer.
    Hide caption
    Thon Khoun, 47, cooks in her kitchen in the Bronx, N.Y. Khoun immigrated as a refugee in 1985 and is a single mother of four. Like many Cambodian refugees, she speaks no English and her children are incapable of speaking Khmer.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • A traditional meal, on the ground with a floormat, in a Cambodian home in Philadelphia.
    Hide caption
    A traditional meal, on the ground with a floormat, in a Cambodian home in Philadelphia.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Wedding of Molly Sopuok, 38, and Todd Prom, 38, in a Cambodian home in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Hide caption
    Wedding of Molly Sopuok, 38, and Todd Prom, 38, in a Cambodian home in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • A Cambodian family honors the passing of an elder at a Buddhist temple in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Hide caption
    A Cambodian family honors the passing of an elder at a Buddhist temple in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • A Cambodian-Vietnamese auto repair shop in Lowell, Mass., referred to locals as "Cambodia Town." An estimated 1 in 3 residents of Lowell are Cambodian.
    Hide caption
    A Cambodian-Vietnamese auto repair shop in Lowell, Mass., referred to locals as "Cambodia Town." An estimated 1 in 3 residents of Lowell are Cambodian.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • A Cambodian neighborhood adjacent to the "Ditch," a focal point of gang violence, in Long Beach, Calif.
    Hide caption
    A Cambodian neighborhood adjacent to the "Ditch," a focal point of gang violence, in Long Beach, Calif.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Shorty, 28, shows his killing-fields tattoo in Philadelphia.
    Hide caption
    Shorty, 28, shows his killing-fields tattoo in Philadelphia.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Joshua Vatthanavong (from left), 11, Joey Vatthanavong, 16, and Sanet Kek, 28, fish without poles at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Hide caption
    Joshua Vatthanavong (from left), 11, Joey Vatthanavong, 16, and Sanet Kek, 28, fish without poles at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx, N.Y.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Youth at a birthday party in Philadelphia.
    Hide caption
    Youth at a birthday party in Philadelphia.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • A Cambodian Halloween party at Sampov Meas restaurant featuring Cambodian pop stars Sokun Nisa and Rin Saveth in Lowell, Mass.
    Hide caption
    A Cambodian Halloween party at Sampov Meas restaurant featuring Cambodian pop stars Sokun Nisa and Rin Saveth in Lowell, Mass.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • Phatry Derek Pan, 30, prays at an altar in the backyard of a Cambodian Buddhist temple in the Bronx, N.Y. The temple was founded in 1981 by Cambodian refugees, who collectively pooled their resources to raise $100,000 within a year of their arrival in the U.S.
    Hide caption
    Phatry Derek Pan, 30, prays at an altar in the backyard of a Cambodian Buddhist temple in the Bronx, N.Y. The temple was founded in 1981 by Cambodian refugees, who collectively pooled their resources to raise $100,000 within a year of their arrival in the U.S.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin
  • My grandfather, 85, at his home in Stockton, Calif., hours before the death of Ieng Sary, one of the senior architects of the killing fields.
    Hide caption
    My grandfather, 85, at his home in Stockton, Calif., hours before the death of Ieng Sary, one of the senior architects of the killing fields.
    Courtesy of Pete Pin

1 of 15

View slideshow i

Pete Pin was born in Khao-I-dang, a refugee camp on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Fleeing the infamous "killing fields" of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, his family eventually resettled in Stockton, Calif., in the mid-1980s. What started with a single portrait of his grandmother has evolved into a deeply personal project that aims to explore the Cambodian diaspora.

His grandmother survived Pol Pot and the killing fields, and after having her portrait taken in 2010, she unexpectedly felt compelled to share her story. "I felt that my camera created this safe place that enabled the conversation to happen," says Pin. "The stories that my grandmother told me explained a lot about my family."

Pin is hoping to reach older Cambodians, but also younger generations who may not be familiar with their family's history and experiences under Khmer Rouge. His goal is to use photography to create an open dialogue within the Cambodian community.

Pin's grandmother Duong Meas in Stockton, Calif., in August 2010; and a family portrait circa 1973, one of only two items Pin's family saved from before the revolution. i i

Pin's grandmother Duong Meas in Stockton, Calif., in August 2010; and a family portrait circa 1973, one of only two items Pin's family saved from before the revolution. Courtesy of Pete Pin hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Pete Pin
Pin's grandmother Duong Meas in Stockton, Calif., in August 2010; and a family portrait circa 1973, one of only two items Pin's family saved from before the revolution.

Pin's grandmother Duong Meas in Stockton, Calif., in August 2010; and a family portrait circa 1973, one of only two items Pin's family saved from before the revolution.

Courtesy of Pete Pin

"One thing that I learned ... is that a lot of people felt really traumatized during their stay in refugee camps," says Pin. He adds that violence and rape were common.

Pin recalled the story of an elderly Cambodian man who escaped atrocities in Cambodia, only to be confronted with enduring hardship in the camps.

"He witnessed a soldier shooting someone right in front of him and his wife. When you have suffered so much already and you come to this place of hope where you think you will be safe ... for many of the Cambodian refugees, it was a place where they lost hope."

"It's the responsibility of young Cambodians to shoulder the responsibility of capturing our stories for generations to come," says Pin. "If young Cambodians don't remember that past, then we are the literal manifestation of Pol Pot's attempts to erase Cambodia's history and culture."

Pete Pin's project, Cambodian Diaspora, is currently on exhibit at Montefiore Family Health Center in Bronx, N.Y., until July 29. See more of his work on his website.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.