The idea of "control" is an illusion when attempting to create a "portrait" of another being. For me, there is the anticipation of a moment that will be unexpected, perhaps very dramatic, or a mood of something entirely else, for both subject and photographer. I like Carl Phillips' sensibility (he applies it to poetry), "…what I'm always after. Nothing gutless, and nothing without its ability to surprise."
When Emily scrunches up her nose and asks what is that?, this is what rushes through me. But there’s no word for all this. There’s no word for watching my mother form a shell of seasoned rice around chopped salmon and rolling it in toasted sesame seeds, no word for learning the right amount of pressure to pack without squishing through years of repeated tradition, no word for even the simplest of go-to meals that have been passed down to me with no verbal instruction, no word for the way my mother licks her thumb when she slides a single perilla leaf from the stack like turning a page of a book, or the sound of it when she lays it down at the bottom of my lunchbox to keep the rice from sticking, no word for the art of prepping, sharing, watching, eating, tasting, the kinetic and olfactory language of caring for one another.
As Armenian-American, I generally have considered myself a person of color with a caveat: If people of color have a range of experiences with discrimination, then I’m at the privileged end of the spectrum. Though self-doubt has often tugged at this determination, I have gone for years—decades—without the subject of my race being called into question by others. Recently, however, over a period of several months, I encountered a rainbow of people who kept telling me that I was white.