Expats and Natives (2002-2005)
in collaboration with Jessica Sucher
The portraits in Expats and Natives were made in small-scale tourist destinations of the developing world -- islands in Thailand, surfing villages in Nicaragua, coastal towns in Mexico. We traveled to these destinations in search of natural beauty, indigenous culture and respite from the urban pace – irresistible notions inherited from centuries of storytelling, photographs and advertising.
In these areas, where there is seemingly little interaction between tourists and locals, we noticed a significant population of mixed families— travelers who stayed and became expats, living with their local wives (or less frequently, husbands) and raising a family in a new culture. We found westerners who had come for similar reasons as us, drawn by the exotic or the escape but who had chosen to remain, and locals who had found a different future outside of their culture. These families came together as a consequence of tourism, a new manifestation of the complicated mixing of cultures that began along trade routes and continues through flows of capital and travel.
In some situations, these families seemed to echo the historical power dynamics between genders as well as between citizens of the developed and developing worlds – age differences, obvious gaps in background and economic levels, tensions and disillusionments. In other cases, the equity and tenderness of the family seemed to undermine easy judgments about status and power. Most frequently, the children in these pictures grounded the families in their shared futures.
As the largest industry in the world, it is often through tourism that the cultures of the developed and the developing worlds meet. These families suggest the layered history and unknown futures of these relationships formed in the intersection of two worlds.