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Tommy Kha's Bits & Pieces

March 9, 2022

Visit our Awards page for this film’s honors and recognition.

A photographer searches for ways to be seen.

In his hometown of Memphis, artist Tommy Kha dons a black garbage bag and a Batman mask before stepping in front of his camera and taking a photograph, recreating a scene from his childhood. Kha, looking straight at his camera, photographs himself playing his younger self, an Asian-American boy searching for ways to be seen in a sometimes hostile culture. The moment encapsulates Kha’s unique creative vision, an uncanny mix of comic, tender, theatrical and documentary impulses.

Now based in New York City, the artist frequently mines his own biography as well as the cultural landscape of his childhood to create photographs and installations that not only reveal the vulnerabilities and contradictions of his own self and family, but also critique the nature of representation itself. From his childhood backyard to his grandfather’s grave to Memphis’ famed Elvis Week gatherings, this short documentary film follows Kha photographing throughout the city, as he tries to reconnect with his hometown and come to terms with fundamental questions around the self and his chosen medium. As Kha asks, “Where do I stand in the picture? What’s the best way to arrive at ourselves through photography?”

More information and credits


New York Close Up Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Editor: Jia Li. Cinematography: Jia Li. Sound: Carver Audain. Sound Mix: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Color Correction: Addison Post. Design & Graphics: Chips. Artwork Courtesy: Tommy Kha. Archival Media: Yale University Library. Thanks: Ava Chin, Emmi Dunn, Monica Horn, Alison Kuo, Ziggy Mack, Katrina McElyea, John Morgan, Nathalie Karg Gallery, Cooper Lee Perkins, Pho Binh Restaurant, Lilly Robicsek, Silver Art Projects, Luke White. © Art21, Inc. 2022. All rights reserved.

New York Close Up is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by individual contributors.

Digital exhibition of New York Close Up films is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Tommy Kha

Tommy Kha was born in 1988 in Memphis, Tennessee, and lives and works between Brooklyn, New York and Memphis. The artist received a BFA from the Memphis College of Art in 2011, and an MFA from Yale University in 2013. With a humorous and poignant touch, Kha examines how we construct belonging and otherness through photography, inventing new models for self-portraiture with a critical eye toward the medium’s long history of absences and erasure.


Race in America