Q&A with May Truong

A desire for more diverse representation in front and behind the lens inspires May Truong's personal projects, which she'll be sharing on the @MagentaFoundation Instagram this week.

Published March 20, 2019

LBR. A lot of your personal work deals with what it’s like to come of age as a person of colour in Canada, why is finding different ways to speak of that important to you? 

MT. I never saw myself represented in media.  It was all dominant culture (white male culture).  When you don’t see yourself represented you feel like you don’t matter.  I am only finding my true voice now.  I want girls and women now to see themselves and their stories represented.  NOW IS THE TIME.  The first time I saw an all Asian cast movie was The Joy Luck Club.  I was floored and I cried so hard watching it.  I had to wait 20 more years to see an all Asian cast movie in Crazy Rich Asians.  20 YEARS!  I went to see Mickalene Thomas speak at the AGO.  She is only the 2nd black woman to have a solo show at the AGO.  She started to list dozens of amazing black female artists.  It made me reflect on my journey and I realized I couldn’t name more than a few Asian Female photographers of my age group or older.  That was a very sad realization.

Drea Manasan photographed for the series "The Maytriarchy"

Shaila Khan photographed for the series "The Maytriarchy"

Rehana Hirjee photographed for the series "The Maytriarchy"

LBR. You’re in the process of interviewing some of your peers about their own experiences on the subject matter for the Maytriarchy, what have you learned so far? 

MT. I learned that we share a lot of the same experiences of not being seen or heard.  Representation matters.  I don’t want to be seen as a marginalized artist.  All of our stories are so common.  And let’s face it, racism is everywhere whether blatant or subtle.  As POCs we have all faced it.  It doesn’t define us, but it does add to the extra layers of our lives.  By sharing stories of Womyn of colour coming of age in Canada, I want people to see not just struggle, but normal people living extraordinary lives despite having to start on an uneven playing field.

From the series "The Outsiders".

LBR. What changes do you wish to see in the photo industry and how are you working towards them?

MT. I want to see more people of colour in places of power. I want to see more work by people of colour.  I want to see work by people of colour that isn’t about being a person of colour.  I want to see people of colour in places of power where they don’t have to be the token person of colour. I am being more public and talking about my experiences, being on panels and generally take space.  Just by being visible I am changing the landscape of the photo industry.

May Truong is a Toronto-based photographer and video artist.  Through her photograph and video work she explores themes of race, gender, and belonging.  She recently created, The Maytriarchy – a platform for womyn of colour to tell their own stories of coming of age in North America.
Laurence Butet-Roch

Laurence Butet-Roch, a member of the Boreal Collective and Muse Projects, is a freelance writer, photo editor, photographer and educator based in Toronto, Canada committed to encouraging critical visual thinking. Her words have appeared in the British Journal of Photography, The New York Times Lens Blog, TIME Lightbox, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Polka Magazine, PhotoLife, BlackFlash and Point of View. She is the editor of Flash Forward Flash Back.