Together, their theatrical performances in front of the lens engage with and question issues of Asian representation in photography, and the “imaging, capturing, and evaluation of otherness”. By doing so, Tommy is able to not only work through his personal history and family trauma, but he is able to take control of his own image – in a way that pushes back against white and western-centric perceptions of the Asian diaspora. Cut-outs of his face and body emphasise these aspects, and allow him the freedom to position his image. He grants himself agency over how he is depicted, challenging problematic visual tropes that have long existed in photography and cinema. In a way, these images challenge reality by breaking from it, by allowing the viewer to see behind the photograph, to see the process of creation. “To repeat, to construct, and to improvise — I like when the artifice shows, when reality fractures slightly,” explains Tommy.
Last year, Soft Murders won the 2021 Aperture-Baxter St Next Step award, granting Tommy $10,000 in funding, a photobook project with Aperture and an exhibition at Baxter St Gallery at CCNY. Reflecting on the recent success of the work, Tommy says: “I feel inarticulate in describing the emotions, the gravity of it. There is so much gratitude, joy, relief, and excitement.” Looking ahead, he plans to continue investigating the past and present of his community and his own life, figuring out how to map it photographically. “I’m going to keep [these ideas] intentionally vague for now, but there’s lots of cutting, taping, copying and pasting – oh and more puzzles, lenticulars and photo collages.”