The Friday Favorite series features makers, projects, films, books, and other sources of inspiration I have fallen in love with. I hope by sharing them I will be able to bring something new and inspiring into your life!
Favorite Instagram Project & Storyteller / Dear Daughter by Christina Tran
I first came across @dear_daughter_ while browsing through the #write_on hashtag back in April. The post I saw had a vintage looking photograph of a young woman and a hand written note below the photo: “Dear Daughter, I want to tell you about your grandmother. I want you to know her stories.” I instantly connected and fell in love with this post– it felt very intimate and reminded me of my own mother and grandmother.
Every post by @dear_daughter has touched me in one way or another–some have made me smile, others have made my eyes well up with tears, and they have all made me think. They have reminded me of my family–my own parents and their struggles, stories, and wisdom. There is something so beautiful and thoughtful about Dear Daughter and how each piece in the series manages to evoke such strong emotions with just a single photo and a handful of words.
Photo courtesy of @dear_daughter_
Christina Tran is the talented storyteller behind Dear Daughter. As a big fan of this project and her work, it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to learn more about both!
Dear Daughter is such a beautiful and impactful series of photographs and letters. Where did you get the idea to start Dear Daughter? What was your inspiration?
I started playing with the idea of writing letters to my future daughter as part of a larger comics project about our culture’s toxic beauty industries and how those messages affect our societal conceptions of self-worth, which influence our perceptions of ourselves. I had this idea that I was going to write these letters “on the world” (as graffiti, in magazines, on our skin, in the sky…) so I started the Instagram account to be able to document experiments in form.
On a last-minute whim this past April, I decided to participate in the Write On campaign during National Letterwriting Month. I really like creative challenges that get me doing small acts of art making at a steady pace for a set amount of time, so I loved the idea of 30 letters in 30 days. I had this old photo album of my mom, so I just started writing tiny letters to my future daughter alongside old photos I had of her.
I love the photos and the nostalgia that comes with them–they look so much like photos my parents have of themselves when they were young. Are these photos from your personal collection / can you tell us more about the people in them?
My parents passed away when I was an undergrad in college, and most of our family photos are back at my brother’s home in Texas. I move around a fair amount myself, so I’m picky about what I bring with me. I have one box of photos, which are a mix of childhood photos, high school pictures, and this one album of my mom from when she was a young lady in Vietnam. I’ve always been intrigued by these photos both because they feel really familiar to me (my high school friends and I would sometimes run around and do photoshoots ourselves) and also because they’re a complete mystery (I don’t know who the other people are, I don’t know where the photos were taken, I never knew this youthful fashion-savvy version of my mom).
I didn’t know I had an analogous album of my dad in his youth until I was rummaging around in my boxes looking for paintbrushes a few weeks ago. I found the dad photos only a few days before the anniversary of his death and right before Father’s Day, so it felt like a sign. I felt I sort of had to do another series of “30 letters in 30 days” using his photos this time.
Every letter I have read has made me emotional–many bring tears to my eyes. I can relate to what is being said / hear my own parents saying these things to me / or they are words I wish have been said. Are these letters words that have been said to you or are they messages you are creating from scratch for your future daughter?
There’s a funny thing that happens in art and in life — if you juxtapose any two things, people will ascribe meaning whether and beyond whatever was initially intended by the creator of the thing. The most fulfilling projects are the ones in which the end results surprise even me. I didn’t anticipate the emotional and healing journey that the series has taken me on, but I am so grateful for it. I started the series as if I were writing to my future daughter, but through the alchemy of art…who can say whether I am sending messages into the future for my children, or whether they are messages sent backwards in time to a younger version of my mom when she was a daughter herself, or whether these are channeled through my maternal ancestors so that they can send me the messages which I yearn for in my present day to day…
If there’s one thing you’d like your audience to take away from Dear Daughter, what would it be?
I think each reader will take away something different; different letters resonate with different people for different reasons. But overall, I am trying to convey a message of faith in yourself and your own personal wisdom. It seems like we’re all seeking and searching and questioning, and we’re always turning outward — to blogposts and media, to other people’s opinions, to tarot cards and societal expectations — for answers. But I’ve found that if I’m quiet enough and if I’m attentive enough, I oftentimes already have all the answers I need.
What are your plans for Dear Daughter going forward?
It’s funny because I haven’t thought that far ahead for this project because this was always meant to be a space to play and experiment. I’ll definitely keep writing letters; the letter writing challenges have rekindled my love for real-life letter writing this year, and I’ve been sending more random letters and postcards to people I care about. Thinking bigger picture, I already made a little postcard pack of some of the mom photos, and I’d love to someday publish the series in some kind of book format.
I really enjoyed reading your creatively written bio (sodelightful.com) and wanted to learn some more about you! Please fill in the blanks…
When I am not working on Dear Daughter, you can find me:
Reading books, making comics, or climbing things
I am passionate about:
Feminism, social justice, and creating more inclusive quiet safe spaces in the world for people to just be.
A project, TV show, podcast, IG/Twitter account, etc. I think you should check out is:
I recently watched a really inspiring documentary about the Ovarian Psychos, an all-women of color bicycle brigade in LA whose “political views are feminist ideas with indigent understanding and an urban/hood mentality.” I really love the work they’re doing in the community, and how they embody their values and ideals.
Check out the trailer: https://vimeo.com/158100366
Besides @dear_daugter_, where can we find and connect with you?
If you like the Dear Daughter series, please check out my comics at sodelightful.com/comics. I tell more stories about my relationship with my family, the loss of my parents, and what it means to love and care for ourselves and for others. You can also sign up for my newsletter for updates. I love writing these letters to my subscribers about what’s going on with my work!
Photo courtesy of @dear_daughter_
Thank you Christina for your thoughtful answers and time! Please go check out @dear_daughter along with Christina’s other projects–I hope you fall in love with them as I have.