“A Portrait of Chinatown” is a documentary series created by Jordon Hon. It will screen at a community event called Storytelling in Chinatown from Within, as part of Asian Heritage Month. We chatted with Jordon to find out what Edmonton’s Chinatown means to him. He may have initially thought of it as a place just for haircuts and dinners, but that’s changing.
How did you get your start in photography, and why do you like using a camera to tell stories?
I’ve loved using a camera to document my family and my life since I was probably 10 years old! I actually had a YouTube channel where I reviewed iPhone apps and products when I was around 12 then later starting vlogging and making short films with friends in junior high school. I think I’ve always been a bit of an existential person, so I’ve consistently valued documenting the moment and looking back to make sense of my life, events, and in a grander sense, the human condition.
What does Chinatown mean to you as a cultural space in Edmonton and in other cities?
Chinatowns have grown to mean so much to me over the past few years. In their very existence, they tell such a rich and real history of the Chinese-Canadian experience but also how this country formed and how its values and fabric have evolved. When you pay attention to spaces as old as Chinatowns, you can start to literally map out how cities and policies have affected their citizens. In the case of Chinatowns, it hasn’t been the most inclusive or balanced, despite how much the communities have contributed to the growth of their respective cities. Chinatowns are essentially a sample size to see how governments and societies view communities of colour, in my eyes. Personally, they are spaces that I love and feel a deep sense of connection to, but politically and planning-wise, they can be quite difficult to navigate at times.
What surprised you, or what did you learn, when you created your docuseries, A Portrait of Chinatown?
I think what surprised me most was how small and fragile the network of Chinatown here in amiskwaciwâskahikan / Edmonton is. I set out to interview a variety of community members and realized that a lot of the heritage and social work in Chinatown rests on the shoulders of only a small handful of people and organizations. This motivated me to complete my series, to share my journey of learning about our local Chinatown, and it continues to fuel me in encouraging involvement with the community. Chinatown and the future of the space is only as powerful as the strength of the people involved. I’ve seen that we can’t necessarily rely on other levels of power to nourish the soul of our Chinatown.
What projects are you working on next?
Aside from Chinatown projects, I am also working on my first personal photobook which will be self-published this summer. It will feature photos taken in the past 5 years surrounding themes of gratitude and investigation of family, culture, love, land and belonging.
What song would you like to send out to our audience?
Daniel Caesar, “Always”
Get more info about the Storytelling in Chinatown from Within Screening event on Eventbrite.