As we grow up, it becomes clear that the world is not black and white. That is just what psychology graduate student Lauren Berger aims to prove with “Mixed Photo Project,” a photo exhibition that opened yesterday at the Memorial Union Art Lounge as part of Mixed Heritage Week.
Showcasing photos of multiracial and multiethnic UC Davis students and Davis residents, the exhibit displays 80 minimalist headshots photographed by junior economics major Nan Liu as well as each participant’s response to the question: “What are you?” Participants include students, faculty and community members of all ages and ethnicities.
The exhibit is modeled after UC Santa Barbara professor Kip Fulbeck’s “Hapa Project,” which features mixed race individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
Berger was inspired to bring the project to UC Davis after learning in her graduate research that the university has no documentation that recognizes mixed race students. After sending out a mass e-mail to recruit people of mixed race in Davis, Berger was astounded to receive more than 90 responses from people who wanted to be involved in the project.
“I want people to recognize that there is a sizeable population of mixed race people on campus. I want people to realize it’s an internal struggle for mixed race people to choose between racial labels,” Berger said.
Junior communication and sociology double major Ben Jose is co-president of the Mixed Student Union and volunteered to be photographed in the exhibit after being inspired by Fulbeck’s project.
“If there’s one thing that someone could take away [from the exhibit] it’s that identification isn’t just based on phenotype, no matter how unconventional it may be in this case,” Jose said.
ASUCD Senator and Cross Cultural Center intern Mo Torres, a junior double majoring in history and Chicana/o studies, cited one of the major issues behind the exhibit as self-identity and the need for people to identify himself or herself the way that they want.
“A lot of people are misinterpreted. But [this is] me telling you about my own identity,” Torres said. “I hope people have a better understanding for people’s histories. We all have such interesting stories but we don’t get a chance to share them that often.“
Berger expressed her excitement for the tremendous response from the community for the project.
“I hope as many people will come as possible. I’m very excited that there’s that much interest,” Berger said. “I think it’s very touching and hopefully others will as well.“
Mixed Heritage Week continues until Friday. The event is presented by the Cross Cultural Center and sponsored by the Mixed Student Union, the Women’s Resources and Research Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center and the Florin Japanese American Citizens League.
For more information on how to become a participant in or get additional information about current research on multiethnic individuals at UC Davis, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full listing of Mixed Heritage Week events, check out the “I <3 Mixed Heritage Week” Facebook group.
JULIA MCCANDLESS can be reached at email@example.com.