"There is such a push for STEM in society which is stupid since we need art. I mean art keeps us healthy, introduces perspectives in a different way. We are so socialized to look at media on our phones. We need to be out there looking at art, seeing the layers and textures and time people are putting into the work. Physical sculptures. How did they physically produce that?
I’ll just continue dabbling in art since it keeps me sane. Someone who puts that much time and soul into their work...maybe one day I can."
This man is gorgeous. Sang Woo Kim.
Is he also an artist?
Yes, he is so interesting. Love him!
He had an exhibition in Berlin, but we didn’t get to see it.
Ahhh. Was gonna ask how it was.
Two of my next big places are Seoul, Korea since my grandma is from there and I’d love to go to Tokyo, Japan. Seeing their art scene and comparing it to America. I assume it would be so different even though my exposure has been minimal haha, especially where I’m from. International art and thinking about their respective history.
I think a lot of times, mainstream culture have a really hard time grasping art, especially “higher” art. That’s probably a really great project to begin understanding art as a tool for critiquing society.
Definitely. I was going to ask, how do you feel about Instagram and other forms of social media? Especially as someone who shoots photographs.
With some of the photographers I follow, I don’t think there should be ‘Instagram artists’ per say. There are incredible artists out there. I read Sally Mann’s book recently, and I love her work. Also an incredible writer. Southern themes and history. Very interesting. Progressive in backwoods Virginia. She even calls her parents Socialists at one point in her autobiography.
But yeah, with the direction of Instagram, it insults to call some Instagrammers ‘artists’. One of my friends is a painter and her life is literally art. She goes into the studio from 9-5 and continues to study her craft even outside of the studio, always learning and diving into books. Seeing photographers and other artists experiment with mediums and concepts is so inspiring.
People on Instagram who take photos of pretty white girls in these nice locations. That’s not art in my personal opinion. Just a VSCO filter combined with a $800-$1200 camera. Its an insult, but art is subjective.
Photography is so different. You can feel the artist, their personality, and narrative.
I look at Instagram and question what about the white girl is in the photo?
The clothes? Not you. The girl who’s posing? Not you. The environment? You probably drove 2 hours out of your city and edited it in Lightroom when you got back.
My friend Sheena showed me her friend’s work and I could see what Sheena just described about the photographer in the work. To poorly paraphrase, the photographer spends 10 months out of the year not going out. Then they spend 2 months of the year traveling and creating. I saw her photos and they are so emotive, powerful. A lonely but powerful portrayal of a single human in environments. The ones I saw at least. The process and mental energy are evident.
I’m not accustomed to seeing that though. I see Instagram squares now. I have unfollowed so many photographers on Instagram because of how it minimizes their work.
I mainly follow painters, sculptors, etc.
All my artist photographer friends are experimenting with their mediums in school, but I can’t wait to see how they merge materials and push boundaries. This is a reason why I like film photography. 80s 90s.
Photojournalism is interesting because it's crucial to see narratives you wouldn’t normally have access too. Art’s subjective.
Would you classify yourself an artist?
More of a hobby right now. Maybe as I get older and create more series, but even then, I don’t know if I would.
I don’t think I can because I admire artists too much. The way they put themselves into their work is something I couldn’t see myself doing. The time aspect is something I can’t afford right now. I just respect artists so much.
Which is interesting...There is such a push for STEM in society which is stupid since we need art. I mean art keeps us healthy, introduces perspectives in a different way. We are so socialized to look at media on our phones. We need to be out there looking at art, seeing the layers and textures and time people are putting into the work. Physical sculptures. How did they physically produce that?
I’ll just continue dabbling in art since it keeps me sane. Someone who puts that much time and soul into their work...maybe one day I can.
What do you normally photograph? Or a series that you’re proud of?
I’m currently not proud of any of my work. I started a series of queer people in the south but I scrapped it because I didn’t like it. I’m still following it, but refining it with more ideas and symbols that I didn’t have back then. It was too basic then.
Telling fictional stories of queer people in the south that I’ve heard which most people don’t hear. The series I hope to pursue in the upcoming years. I’ll be proud of it in the end.
Maybe I’m being ignorant and someone else has already done this, but I don’t want to be influenced right now.
So many photographers in general aren’t receiving the recognition they deserve. I hope people will see parts of me in the photographs I aspire to capture.
I’m so excited! It is so important for queer artists to portray the queer community instead of an outsider.
Hopefully I’ll get the first shots in the next couple of months and ask you on your thoughts.
I was definitely being influenced by social media and craving recognition. Now I don’t give a fuck and want to express myself in this way, which more people should do.
That's a sign of growth! When you are no longer proud of your work. It’s the same me, but a different layer.
I’m pessimistic about the state of photography due to social media, but then I see folks like my friends who are exploring large format, cyanotypes, and more.
How do you personally identify by the way?
My name is Cory. Queer person of color. Mixed heritage. Born in a Southern household but also mixed in with a Korean American household. It has given me experiences that most people don’t get. I identify as male, he/his/him. Though I find the whole gender construct completely stupid. I wish everyone just used they/them ideally. Why do we even have he/him/she/her. I don’t wish to discredit people’s associations with gender, but in my ideal world.
I’m a scientist. I tell everyone I’m a mad scientist because everything about society gets me angry. I’m not actually crazy, well I am, but not smart enough to create chemical weapons or be an actual Mad scientist.
I tell everyone I’m a mad scientist because our politics pisses me off. And our white heteronormative patriarchal society pisses me off. Second, my hobby is photography. That’s who I am in a very brief statement.
Thank you for that brief uncovering. You mentioned the South quite a few times. Can you expand more upon that and its influence on you?
So where I’m from, it’s pretty integrated when it comes to White and Black America. My school was 60% white 40% Black and probably 5% Hispanic. 105% percent we’ll say. Who needs 100%? They did a demographic poll and there was probably 12 of us out of 2,500 students. Yeah, they don’t count. Me and my brother were probably one of the only few people of Asian heritage at all. My brother is 4 years older so we never really went to school together.
I didn’t think about race very much growing up besides being really proud. This was elementary school mind you. It was never a big factor since elementary school was pretty mixed. Then we went to middle school where there was a lot more people since schools are coming together. That is when I started noticing my race more often. I mentioned it more since I was so proud of being Korean and Japanese.
Then I would get racist comments and things I didn’t necessarily see as racist till I reflected upon it later in life. Wow, I should have said something back then. I had no one to tell me it was wrong.
It wasn’t until college where people weren’t blatantly racist towards me. Wow! This is how people were supposed to treat me.
It’s interesting. So my father is white and a self proclaimed ‘redneck’. I don’t know why. He doesn’t hunt or anything, just sounds very southern. It’s really funny because my father pushed our Asian heritage onto us more than our mother. He was the one who taught us how to use chopsticks and pushed Asian food onto us. Sushi, Kimbop, Kimchi, Bulgogi, etc. I refused to eat kimchi until I was 11 because I hated the smell.
Now I smell kimchi and go HOME! Also I hated spicy things so there was no appeal to it. But one day my father forced me to and I realized it’s actually pretty good.
Yeah, my mom is 1st generation so she is pretty assimilated, very Southern. Doesn’t know Japanese or Korean. Whenever people hear me talking to my mother on the phone, they hear her deep Southern accent. Whenever she visited college, people were kind of taken back by it. Haha. Woah, this is new!
It’s funny, she wanted me to look Asian. I don’t know if she actually did. When I dyed my hair blonde, she accused me of trying to be more white. Actually, I just wanted to see what I looked like blonde. I looked terrible by the way.
I’ve been blonde too haha.
My eyebrows looked great.
You bleached those too?
No, I kept them black so the contrast looked amazing. My facial hair grown out looked awful though. I had to always shave.
It’s funny. Weird to talk about it. Certain people in my family have clinged onto our Asian heritage more than others. Some of us act more white I guess. All of them date white. Whenever I come home for Thanksgiving, it’s all white people. I’m gonna put a quota on for white people.
It’s been really shitty at times, but I’ve enjoyed it. Being a queer person is shitty at times too, but it’s made me a better person. Continuously being put down for an aspect of yourself that you have no control over. And even if you did, who gives a shit? It makes you stronger. I’ve always admired queer people of color and all they go through.
Objectification. Racism. No Fats. No femmes. No Asians. No Blacks. What the fuck.
Yassss! I once downloaded Grindr and put “No Whites” as the name. People would message me asking what that meant and accused me of being reverse racist.
Let’s just put this on quote, reverse racism does not exist. Literally it is socially impossible. Please talk to your local sociologist and they will tell you it doesn’t work that way.
I recently read an article talking about Asians within the dating world. As an Asian male, especially a straight Asian man. The article said Black women and Asian men are the least likely to get asked on date or right on Tinder. I just don’t understand. White men were obviously the most swiped.
I was going to ask about your family. Do you think they consciously aspire for whiteness and to date white people?
Oh yes. I definitely experienced that in high school. As a pubescent young man who was still possibly interested in women, I would get picked on by the cliche submissive and small penis comments. The most ridiculous, stupid stereotype. Who came up with this? White men and porn!
I would have silly wishes that I would have my dad’s green eyes and be paler like my father. Now I AM paler and go, no. Stop! I’m being sun burn now and am one of the only ones in my family who does (to an extent). It might be subconscious for some of them, they don’t even realize it. I don’t know if it’s intentional. I blame society. American society is shit and people are finally beginning to call it out more.
Racism. Queer rights. Feminism. A whole other conversation.
I want to say most marginalized groups in the South once wished to be white. I can’t speak for everyone but my assumption would be that most wished to be white so they didn’t have to deal with shit.
What’s the biggest issue you see in the LGBTQ community?
In my opinion, racism. Really, really bad. Even if people aren’t vocal about it. I mean we all participate in a racist society. We’re all participating in obscure ways in racism. It is something we need to admit and fix.
It’s interesting because when I was back home in the South in college, I was on Grindr and had a photo where I looked white. I was really pale. So I did this thing where I listed my ethnicity as white and got hundreds of messages. I then switched it to mixed and got significantly less. Most of those messages were, “What are you? What is your ethnicity?”
I wouldn’t actively participate in it, but just wanted to see how people reacted.
Then you obviously have shitty people who list Whites only.
Yeah, racism is a really big thing. And Objectification. No. Maybe somebody who want to be your Asian boy toy, but let’s stop that nonsense.
Go choke on a lego.
Omg! Lego gloryholes. That’s art.
Come on porn! Pick up your artistic creativity.
It’s incredibly objectifying. Racially. Perpetuating gender stereotypes of tops being dominant and masc and bottoms being submissive. Or people being exclusively one or the other.
Just read some fanfiction on tumblr instead.
It’s scary knowing so many people learn about sex and their bodies through porn though!
It’s such a good topic to discuss. People need to talk more about this. Maybe the Christian were right! No porn.
Nah. Probably not but still.
But yeah, racism. Biggest thing. It will take forever to resolve, not just in the queer community, but it is so evident within. People view the queer community as so accepting and embracing, but that’s bullshit. I think with the younger generation it is more inclusive and social media probably had to do a lot with that. Twitter and Tumblr are teaching empathy through sharing of our experiences instead of just the white, heteronormative storyline which people of our age and older generations mainly consumed.
Listening to my little cousin talk, it seems completely different. My 9 year old cousin, that sweet baby angel. I was meeting my mom and her boyfriend. My mom’s boyfriend goes, “Amelia, go tell Cory what you told me.”
“What did you say Amelia?”
“I was just saying how the big waves are the girl waves, the small waves are the boy waves, and the middle waves are the mixed gender wave.”
“That’s not the right terminology, but I’m so proud of you.” You understand.
I’m so happy the big waves are the female waves.
Me too. This is going in the right direction already.
I’m super excited about the younger generation. It will keep getting better and inclusive.
We need to remember that is was mainly trans people of color who opened the door for us. Crucial for the movement and their life expectancy in this day and age is 35 years old. We’re not a great country! To know anyone’s life expectancy is 35 is disgusting. Racism. Transphobia. Gender. So much we need to fix.
That is why I volunteer there (the Equality Center). I want to get young POCs into the mix. A lot of people don’t have voices. We all have our own personal demons and I’m privileged to be at point where I’m not struggling with that. So I’m gonna use my voice right now to stand with those can’t.
I’ve been very distant from queer politics till recently. I always stayed educated but kept my distance. I have the time and am going to use my voice. Many people don’t have the time, and the fact we need to do this is shitty.
I’m gonna do all the work I can until I’m consumed by grad school.
Yes! You talked briefly about it last time we met up, but can you talk about being a water scientist?
So I started off as pre-pharmacy then switched to environmental science which was a huge thing with my mother.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do but was introduced to environmental science through a person who talked about overpopulation. Now I know his findings were incorrect, but he introduced me to the concept of the world ending and needing to do something. Thomas Malthus talked in depth about rationing and food supplies. He did political economy and demography. So he introduced me to the idea and I always loved trees. So symbolic. They are the ultimate wise person. They’ve been around so much and we can’t talk to them, but they can talk to each other through their roots! Which is amazing!
I was thinking more and reading and the job market. Many Americans take our water for granted. We pollute our waterways and use our water funds in frivolous ways. Back in South Carolina, a reporter found that our water fund was going to a baseball stadium. Millions of dollars. And we have sewage overload, so literal shit on the streets.
So 1st, stable job market. 2nd, funny but I have a fear of water. I have an irrational fear of a lake monster scooping me up. I’ve seen Jaws way too many times. I’m afraid of heights and am around those two all the time.
Water. So powerful and elegant. One thing that stuck with me is, my Rivers professor talks about rivers as organisms. We have the Gaia hypothesis which is that we’re all functioning as a single organism. Rivers work. They transport sediment, seeds, biology, they’re a habitat, change in the most optimal way. Rivers are cool! That really struck a chord with me. I was passionate about it when I thought about it through a social lens. We have Flint, Michigan which environmental scientists knew about for a long time. You have inorganic matter in water, carcinogens, the whole ethical side. Environmental justice.
If I could go back, I would probably do environmental engineering so I could concentrate more on water. I love what I do. I was pressured into doing sciences, but enjoy it. I got lucky. I would never pressure anyone into studying something they didn’t want to. That causes anxiety and depression.
Right now, do I love my job? Not necessarily. Someone once said you’ll never love your first job, which is probably true in the sciences, but I’m hopeful the future will be bright. I work for the government which is meh but stability is pretty nice.
Something I’m really interested in right now is environmental justice. There are too many mind boggling environmental injustices that are perpetuated. Historically Black communities have been placed in places with high lead and metal content. That’s one of many sad systemic problems. I am still learning and am pretty ignorant when it comes to environmental injustice, but I’m hoping to really refine myself in graduate school.
I was just listening to Pod Save the People and it talks about how it would take over 200 years of work for Black people to accumulate the amount of wealth White communities have. It touches on property value and food deserts.
What is one question you wished people asked you more often?
One question. This is a good question. When I’m trying to get to know people...maybe a very earnest, “How are you?” That will be my default.
That’s surprisingly/unsurprisingly one of the most common responses. I’ve been thinking about why. One hypothesis is that Queer and Trans people of color have been through so much that they know how to truly empathize and listen. They understand the struggle and how connected pain is. We listen.
I recently saw a tweet about that. Stupid as it is, it resonated with me. If you’re used to the one crying on your friend’s shoulder, actually ask that friend how they’re doing. You probably haven’t asked in a while if you ever asked before.
How are you honestly doing nowadays Cory? How are you self-caring lately?
I feel really good right now. I’ve been telling everyone that I’m so glad I met you and Akiko. First of all because you two are amazing people. I have been feeling so removed from photography because I don’t have many artist friends here. Having you two in my life inspires me and includes me in the conversation again.
Trying to get more involved with grass root organizations and the queer community. I’m really excited about our LGBTQ+ POC group. I’m starting to get rooted in Tulsa. Meeting awesome people and enjoying myself more. I’m pissed at society, but personal life, I’m good.
How are you?
I’m also feeling more comfortable in Tulsa. Putting less energy into dealing with the program and educating people around here has allowed me to concentrate more on my well-being. Meeting awesome people like you who keep my hopes up and have similar aspirations/values really keep me afloat.
Most of friends were straight white people from work. The Equality Center and other places have exposed me to so many others. Will I stay here? No!
It’s comforting to know you can find your tribe anywhere.
Maybe not anywhere. Not South Dakota. Just visit cause it’s pretty.
Haha! Bring your white girl and take that instagram photo, then leave.
Haha yes! Always bring the pretty white girl.
I always close with the same question. What advice do you have for your younger self/the next generation of QTPOC folks?
Try to care less about how people perceive you which is really difficult. All the hardships I’ve been through have made me a better person, and I wouldn’t take them back, but I wish nobody had to experience that. I’ll probably be even more of an asshole if I hadn’t gone through that.
Be more empathetic too. Try to get to know people for who they are even if you don’t like them. Maybe there is a reason why they feel that way. It can be exhausting to work on people, but it can be rewarding. Be empathetic if you want to be. You don’t have to be. It’s a lot to go through the stuff you need to and be empathetic on top of that. If your heart so desires.
Definitely try to care less about opinions. Grow attuned with yourself and self-love.
RuPaul got it right. “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Yassss! Did you have a favorite drag queen this past season or of all time?
That’s tough. This past season I would probably say Peppermint or Trinity.
I thought Trinity was hilarious and didn’t expect it from the beginning. She seemed boring but really grew throughout the season. Her drag wasn’t too special but I really enjoyed her personality. Peppermint is such a delightful human being. Lip Sync queen. She shot Cynthia Lee Fontaine with an imaginary shotgun. When she did that, I fell to the ground and gasped!
I loved the top 4. Shea. So well rounded. Sasha has become so self aware about being the brainy queen. Introducing more abstract forms of art into drag. If it wasn’t for the finale, Shea would have won.
She didn’t have roses.
She didn’t! Those roses had me shook. I was like Ohhhhhhhh! I heard about them before since I’m part of a Reddit but I still loved every part of it.
Nina! I loved Nina!
There is an amazing article that talks about how we treated Nina’s mental health differently than white drag queens who expressed similar demons.
Yeah, I agree. When she walked out with that Peach though, I screamed and died. Favorite from past seasons, I love Violet’s current aesthetics. Her more high fashion looks are incredible.