"I have been photodocumenting the Cambodian Refugee community in the Bronx, New York since June 1986 as an independent interest in preserving a historical document of surviving members of a war-torn culture who are trying to make a new life for themselves in the United States. My academic studies focus upon this independent project and provide a structure and environment to learn more about the process of documenting a community.
I have been extensively involved with the Khmer community and combine volunteer work and much social time with my image-making and writing. I am concerned with issues about refugee resettlement in areas such as the Bronx and extensively examine the process of adaptation and acculturation this group of people is undergoing. I am interested in seeing aspects of traditional Cambodian culture preserved and through my photographs I hope to explore the balance between preserving Khmer culture with adapting to American life in the Bronx.
This fall I will begin photodocumenting the Cambodian refugee community in the Amherst/Northampton/Holyoke area to compare the resettlement experience in a rural versus an urban environment. I will continue doing volunteer work through the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Massachusetts to balance my humanitarian concern and involvement with the photodocumentary project."
Leah Melnick, Artist Statement,