Faces of China
by Julie Lefgren
Reception: Apr 30, 6:30pm
For the last 20 years I have lived off and on in Taiwan and China learning the language and culture of the Chinese people. In learning Mandarin, I have discovered a gateway into a people and history that is indescribably rich. My Chinese friends call me an “egg” – yellow (Chinese) on the inside and white on the outside. I consider it a compliment for, after so much time and experience, I have come to understand the Chinese almost intuitively. For many Americans, China is still a mysterious and distant land. And yet, China is in our homes, our clothes and the products we buy - as much of what we own and use was made by the hands of our Chinese brothers and sisters.
My work showcases the people of Mainland China, not as a mass group, but as the individuals that they are. Through my lens I tell a few of the stories and share a sliver of diversity that is to be found in one quarter of the world’s population. I strive to capture that moment when a smile is given, work is in process or a thought is passing. Through my photography I show the Chinese people as I see and know them - as individuals who care about the things we all do: family, work, friends, play, food and the future.
I am a native of Cache Valley with family roots that run more than four generations in Utah. In all my travels Cache Valley still remains my favorite place in the world. I’m the oldest of seven children and the proud, favorite aunt of 19 nieces and nephews. In the spring of 1988 I took an opportunity to teach English and live in Taiwan. It was the beginning of an adventure that has defined my life.
After this experience I came back to the U.S. only to turn around three months later, returning to Taiwan as a service missionary for my church. It was during this missionary time period that I began the process of learning Mandarin. Learning Mandarin is a lifetime endeavor. After returning to the U.S. I wanted to follow where this path would take me. The window that Mandarin provided into the Chinese people and culture drove my desire to continue studying Chinese at BYU, to live again in Taiwan and China and then pursue an M.A. degree in Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Oregon, Eugene. After graduation in 1998 I worked for a software company in Boston and later moved back to Cache Valley to start up my own business. During my time in Boston and then four years of self-employment I used Chinese for not much more than ordering food.
In 2007, I decided to return to Chinese and was eventually hired as an adjunct professor position in the BYU Chinese department. Since I have returned to teaching Chinese I have never been more satisfied in a career path. Twice in my time at BYU I have had the opportunity to lead the Nanjing study abroad (2008, 2011) as director for an entire fall semester. Returning to China was exciting and eye opening. China had developed at such a fast pace since my first visit in the mid-90s that I hardly recognized it. The PRC, with all of its rapid modernization, remains an exciting and intensely interesting space. I hope to return many times in the future.
Location: Sprague Branch
Contact Information: (801) 594-8640