I met Jaydee Dizon, a Los Angeles artist, during a documentary photography class I attended through Venice Arts. Because they focus mostly on youth classes, it was one of Venice Arts’ rare adult outreach programs. Taught by award-winning documentary photographer, Sara Terry, we got to stretch our personal boundaries, get outside with cameras, and interact with the humans of our respective environments (though we spent much of our photo time in the Venice Arts neighborhood).

Until then, Jaydee considered herself a landscape photographer, but early in the class she produced some highly compelling autobiographical photos, including Rice Face, a self portrait that ultimately launched her powerful 20-woman identity series.

“It is embedded in my memory as I remember the early mornings at about 6 am as I pour water buffalo (Carabao) milk with salt crystals in my bowl of rice. It was a morning ritual when I headed off to Catholic private school as it signifies a good start of the day.”
Jaydee, Filipino, Rice Face

In the statement on her website, she explains, “…I enjoyed landscape photography because it gave me ample time to find a perfect spot to set up my tripod and photograph a piece of land, whether it was a historical landmark or not. I didn’t need to make an appointment. Also, I didn’t have to deal with lighting issues especially when my remote triggers were unsuccessfully connecting with my digital SLR.

“But this time, I found myself amused as I wanted to cover my face entirely with Jasmine rice. It was a grain I felt a connection to since it was a meal I enjoyed growing up.”

I was delighted to participate in the series (I’ve included my own portrait in the sampling below), and enjoyed seeing my grain-covered face as part of a grain-faced—and diverse—community of women.

Now that she’s met her first goal of twenty portraits, she says, “My ultimate goal is to reach out to other women in Southern California to participate in the portrait photography project. According to facts about Los Angeles, ‘People from 140 countries, speaking approximately 86 different languages, currently call Los Angeles home.’”

“Quinoa is referred to as the “mother grain” because it has so many nutritional benefits. Eating lots of quinoa during the early stages of motherhood and nursing was an important part of my day.”
Jocelyn, African American, Quinoa Face

“My family is a blend of Iraqi and Ukranian Jews, though I was closest to my Iraqi grandmother. She cooked with white rice and rice meal, and now as an adult I blend the familiarity of Basmati rice with the richer benefits of brown Basmati.”
Penina, Iraqi/ Ukranian Jew, Basmati Brown Rice Face

“I am half African-American and half Vietnamese. I eat red beans and rice at one grandma’s house and drink sweet red bean boba milk tea at the other.”
Mai, Vietnamese/African American, Red Bean Face

“From a very young age oats were comfort and nourishment. As a mother it has been something I have prepared for my own children and used medicinally for their fair skin. It provides a connection to my grandmothers and through that a daily opportunity to ground myself to them.”
Shannon, Irish, German, and Dutch, Oat Face

“I chose this grain because it is special to me and my family. I come from two lines of farmers, and several green thumbs. In my early days of learning to garden, red amaranth was one of the staples I saw master gardeners and beginners growing. You can eat the leaves, and the seeds are the ‘grains’. It’s fun to harvest, and adds a delicious crunch to the dishes I’ve made using this grain.”
Rocky, Filipino/Mestizo/Yaqui, Amaranth Face

This sampling was chosen, not because these were the “best” portraits, but because they convey a fairly wide range of the ethnicities and ages the series explores. See the entire series (so far) and read Jaydee’s full statement on her website: jaydeedizon.com.

 

 

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