Pao Houa Her exhibits at Paris Photo 2022

untitled (opium flower with pink fabric), 2019
The Imaginative Landscape series
archival pigment print
20 x 16 inches

Pao Houa Her makes her European debut this week at Paris Photo, the world’s largest photography fair, where her series The Imaginative Landscape (2022) will be presented within the Curiosa section, a showcase featuring 17 artists from 12 countries. The event, which runs November 10–13, also marks Bockley Gallery’s first participation in a European art fair.

Her’s work will appear in the third of three festival “capsules,” one highlighting current practices in landscape photography. (The others spotlight experimental and conceptual approaches to image construction and new portraits focusing on personal history and intersecting identities.)

As Curiosa curator Holly Roussell, of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, writes:

Pao Houa Her’s work explores the relationship between landscape, photography and the history of the Hmong diaspora. Born in Laos but having fled to the US as a child, the Hmong-American artist feels disconnected from the land her people call home. In The Imaginative Landscape, Her presents what she imagines her grandmother’s ideal Laos to be and, in doing so, draws attention to the aftermath of their complex colonial history: “We are continuously given land that nobody wants and have been able to prosper in those areas over and over again.”

Her’s images depict the Hmong diaspora through a subtle but subversive lens: portraits of elders against opulent backdrops of fake flowers, young people dressed in “traditional” dress in rural America, potted plastic flowers placed before a kitsch faux landscape backdrop, and regularly, an important symbol of colonial times and Hmong resilience: opium poppies. Her’s landscape photos are a nod to the fictional and fictionalizing function of landscape photographs, which both disseminated the “American Dream” to her ancestors, and serve the present-day Hmong diaspora as fuel to fantasize about their lost home in Asia. Her’s work is exemplary of the powerful, andculturally divergent points of view contributing meaningfully to photography in the United States.

As part of Paris Photo, Her will join Roussell and artist Tommy Kha on Sunday, November 13 from 3:30–4:30pm (CET) for a conversation entitled “Constructing the Frame – Reclaiming the Portrait.”

For more on Her and The Imaginative Landscape, read our conversation, “Homelands Lost, Constructed, Reimagined: An Interview with Pao Houa Her.”