'round the exit line was made in a twilight year. I graduated college in May 2015 and moved to California’s Bay Area. My one year visa set a hard deadline for an August 2016 return to Vietnam. The series is about the political identities - national, racial, economic - that contain us and constrain us.

The exit line refers to my imminent departure from the US but also symbolizes the invisible geographic and demographic boundaries that define communities. While I lived in the Bay Area, young people flocked to the region, drawn by the rapidly growing economy. Yet, from San Francisco’s Mission District to Downtown Oakland, tensions mounted over housing affordability. Questions emerged regarding whether the participants in California’s new gold rush pushed out communities that had long defined the region’s spirit.

From May 2015 to August 2016, I underwent a period of personal change against the backdrop of political, economic, and cultural shifts roiling a major American city and economic hub. My temporary residential status in the US cast me as an outsider in limbo. Despite this, I developed a strong connection with the local Oakland community where I lived. I witnessed spaces, from a roasted duck restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown to Highway 880 occupied by a Black Lives Matter protest, in a different kind of limbo. I photographed to observe and to take part, but ultimately, I knew that I could never belong. Round the exit line questions what it means to belong in the Bay Area at the time.

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