Few Americans know the plight of Palawan, Philippines, where about 1,800 Vietnamese live in a squalid refugee camp without luxuries, rights or citizenship in any country. But photographer Brian Doan wants his debut to change that. With the help of Westminster-based Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA), Doan has published TheForgottenOnes,a Dorothea Lange-esque collection of panoramic black-and-white shots he took in Palawan. His camera unobtrusively captures a generation without a homeland, ignored by the Vietnamese and Filipino governments with equal apathy (after nearly 15 years of negotiation, the United States will finally allow the majority of the refugees to settle here in the next couple of years). While the composition of the photographs doesn't usually lend itself to the art of the panorama—most of the pictures are intimate portraits of individuals, street vendors or cemeteries—Doan uses the panorama's epic nature to create elegiac landscapes of individuals who maintain hope despite their bitter lives. Doan smartly offers little commentary other than sparse captions, a couple of essays in the appendix and a thoughtful prologue by Cypress College professor Jerry Burchfield. And despite the harrowing stories he shares, Doan offers hope: the final picture in TheForgottenOnesis of a brother and sister at Manila Airport, smiling as they prepare to board a flight to the United States that's been idling for 15 years.
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THE FORGOTTEN ONES: A PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION OF THE LAST VIETNAMESE BOAT PEOPLE IN THE PHILIPPINES BY BRIAN DOAN. PAPERBACK, 110 PAGES, $24.95. AVAILABLE ONLINE AT WWW.THEFORGOTTENONES.ORG; DOAN SIGNs COPIES OF HIS BOOK AT THE NGUOI VIET NEWS COMMUNITY ROOM, 14771 MORAN ST., WESTMINSTER, (714) 891-8172. SUN., 3-5:30 P.M. FREE.