Cindy Hwang/CYJO, Umbrage Editions, New York, 2011, 498 pp., English

Following on her magnanimous portrait series of migrant workers in Beijing, Substructure, Beijing-based Korean-American photographer Cindy Hwang, a.k.a. CYJO, published this hefty collection of 237 portraits of fellow kyopo (people of Korean ethnicity living outside of Korea), and their survey-response texts to a set of standardized questions. However much the focus is placed on the subjects’ faces, their words at times annex the space of objet trouvé, and viewer quickly becomes reader: these “profiles” are almost more alluring than their owners’ images. The diversity of their individual stories is countervailed by a doggedly homogenous format, as the scale of each shot has been adjusted so that all subjects appear the exact same height, always against an identical white-and-wood background. It’s an apt metaphor for how the specific narratives are backgrounded by a larger, shared set of socio-historical circumstances: a compelling reason for them to now be on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.