When Pimprae Hiranprueck was 13, her parents sat her down and told her she would be leaving Thailand for a military boarding school in Florida. Her father had come to the United States in 1967 as an exchange student and wanted his daughter to receive an American education, a sentiment Hiranprueck didn’t share. “I was devastated,” she said. “For a 13-year-old girl who didn’t speak English very well, moving to a foreign country was a terrifying idea.”
She cried herself to sleep for the first month and felt lost and confused. Above all, she felt displaced. One of only five Asian students, she was also the only Thai. Having no other choice, she accepted her reality and decided to make the best of things, eventually moving in with the people she calls her “American family,” relatives of her father’s host family from decades earlier.
Once Hiranprueck (who goes by Nancy) graduated, she enrolled in the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she studied fashion design and textiles, eventually discovering photography. As the years progressed since leaving Thailand, she began to feel more at home in the Unites States through her education and also with her American family.
But her feelings of longing for her old home came back to her while working on her senior thesis. Frustrated, Hiranprueck went on Facebook to see some photos taken during her grandmother’s birthday party in Thailand, one of many milestones she had missed. She felt pangs of longing for home, but now they were coupled with feelings of sadness about leaving the United States and returning to Thailand as the end of her education neared.
She decided to put away her original thesis and focus on herself to try to figure out her conflicting emotions about to which country she truly belonged. She took the images of the significant moments that had passed her by, projected them onto different surfaces with a digital projector, and imposed herself into the moments.
“I have created my own, substitute memories,” she said. “The photographs became the tools to connect us; they became the surrogate for [friends and family’s] presence.”
Feeling as if she were straddling two parallel lines—and lives—she called the project “Intersecting the Parallels.” “These objects enabled me to reacquaint myself with friends and family and to create new memories,” she said. The work also gave her the opportunity to reflect on her life in the United States. Hiranprueck said it allowed her “to have a better understanding of myself and to gain a new perspective about who I am at this point in my life.”
Hiranprueck is looking to turn the work into a book that will combine “Intersecting the Parallels” with a photography timeline of her life and stills from a video installation she made about receiving a care package from Thailand.
Although she used social media as a means of connecting with her friends and family abroad, Hiranprueck said many of her loved ones were surprised to learn how much she had longed to be part of their lives in Thailand. “Most of them said they never knew that I was struggling here, and all of them said it was time for me to go home,” she said.
You can visit her website to learn more about her project.