I am a first generation Japanese immigrant who grew up in the United States. To me, America was never a home but a glorified cultural experiment, in which I was a willing participant. It was a country that I wanted so desperately to embody, but could only ponder as a bystander. This stark sense of voyeurism only intensified as the years went by.
In the summer of 2016, during the months leading up to Donald Trump's election, I embarked on a road trip across the United States in a 1978 Ford Econoline. Spending quality time with multigenerational American natives, I thought, would allow me to feel more American, or at the very least, help me gain a better understanding of the people that I grew up with. It didn't. I have never been more wary to speak, more utterly confused as to what constitutes American identity.
Some road trips offer answers; others raise questions. After being on the road for four months, I have only questions. America prides itself on capitalistic achievements while bullying its citizens with notions of personal accountability. It is a country fractured by race and class, reinforced by a growing population of those who have been written out of the American Dream. In a world of stark indignities, how have its inhabitants qualified dignity?
The following set of images is a perpetual outsider's cataloguing of America. Furthermore, it is an attempt to capture how Americans—much like the terrain they inhabit—have redefined dignity amidst chaos.