IMPACT
03/11/2016 03:23 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2017

Stunning Photos Capture Korean Adoptees' Feelings Of Conflicting Cultural Identity

There are over 100,000 Korean-American adoptees living in the U.S.
Zeke Anders photographs a KAD diaries subject in front of the American and South Korean flags in Washington, D.C.
Jeanne Modderman
Zeke Anders photographs a KAD diaries subject in front of the American and South Korean flags in Washington, D.C.

What -- and where -- is home? For Korean-American transracial adoptees, the answer isn't simple.

In his new photography series, the KAD Diaries, Zeke Anders, the creator of the award-winning vlog series "American Seoul," is exploring the in-between space that people adopted from South Korea and raised by white American families exist in.

Transracial adoptees often have cultural/self-identity issues. We feel many times that we don't fit in either culture.

"Transracial adoptees often have cultural/self-identity issues," Anders said to HuffPost. "We feel many times that we don't fit in either culture. In many cases we grow up in white suburbia and people judge us by the color of our skin and assume that we're right off the boat. But if we were to go over to Korea, we wouldn't fit necessarily in that culture either."

Korean-American adoptees being interviewed in a studio in LA for the KAD Diaries project.
Matt Booth
Korean-American adoptees being interviewed in a studio in LA for the KAD Diaries project.

Anders’ photos feature two flags hanging behind his subjects, the American stars and stripes and the flag of South Korea. He lets the adoptees choose which flag they want to stand in front of. “There is no wrong answer,” he explains. It just depends on which feels right for the person being photographed.

KAD Diaries subjects stand in front of the American and South Korean flags while being interviewed.
David Valera
KAD Diaries subjects stand in front of the American and South Korean flags while being interviewed.

After he photographs them, Anders interviews his subjects about their experiences growing up in America. He considers it more of a sharing that lets the other adoptees learn about each other and their similar hardships navigating through "the murky waters of self-identity."

Anders interview Korean-American adoptees in a studio in Washington, D.C.
Jeanne Modderman
Anders interview Korean-American adoptees in a studio in Washington, D.C.

The history of American adoption of Korean orphans is long and complicated, often influenced by war and military influence in South Korea, and, at one point, even the Olympics held in Seoul in 1988. According to census reports from the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, around 100,000 Korean orphans have been adopted by American families between the years 1951-2001 alone. 

In many cases we grow up in white suburbia and people judge us by the color of our skin and assume that we're right off the boat. But if we were to go over to Korea, we wouldn't fit necessarily in that culture either

Despite being part of the community, Anders said he had no idea the Korean-American adoptee community was so large. It was only when he started doing his vlog series that he was able to meet others like him.

Anders as a child with his adoptive parents.
Provided by Zeke Anders
Anders as a child with his adoptive parents.

After a few years of soaking in his new world, the idea for the KAD Diaries came to him, spurred on by a street photography class in Los Angeles. Inspired by the rawness of film, Anders only uses 120 Medium Format Black & White for the KAD Diaries. 

"Film is organic, raw, and imperfect - a perfect metaphor for us adoptees, the issues surrounding adoption, and self identity," Anders said. "If there are answers, it's not black and white, but rather a spectrum of grey."

Anders engages in animated discussion with other adoptees.
Matt Booth
Anders engages in animated discussion with other adoptees.

The KAD Diaries is still in its early stages and Anders hopes to soon travel to cities like Minneapolis and Portland which have large populations of Korean-American adoptees to expand his series. 

If you are a Korean-American adoptee and would like to submit your stories or photos to the KAD Diaries, please send them here.

HuffPost

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