EXPOSED: Little Saigon


The EXPOSED photo contest began by focusing on Little Saigon, the part of the International District that is east of the I-5 freeway.
TUCKED AWAY in the upper right corner of the International District, Little Saigon is like a giant onion, the layers of which wait to be uncovered and savored, minus the part about savoring onions. True to its name, this nook delivers a blend of cultural products unique to its mostly Vietnamese, yet otherwise diverse inhabitants. Venturing past the I-5 underpass on S Jackson St, the unsuspecting visitor meets with a gradual ascendancy in the assortment of Vietnamese signs. This phenomenon peaks at Little Saigon’s epicenter, on the intersection 12th Ave and S. Jackson St. Bakeries, restaurants, markets, jewelry stores, hair salons and beauty schools, even private doctors’ and lawyers offices line up the streets, teeming with all sorts of Vietnamese products and services.
Yet any monolithic depiction of Little Saigon commits an unforgivable error for it not only omits the contributions of other Southeast Asians and their products to the cultural pool today, but also the historical presence of other communities in this area. With the fall of Saigon in 1975 came the resulting surge in Vietnamese immigrants of the 1980s, giving rise to Little Saigon both in name and spirit. Prior to this however, 12th Ave and Jackson St, the very heart of Little Saigon was once a Jazz capital, featuring talents such as Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Ernestine Anderson during the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. This neighborhood is also home to the Seattle Indian Center, an organization championing the plight of Native Americans, as well as the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (JCCCW).
So how big is this place anyways? With over 150 small businesses, Little Saigon can easily morph to meet the visitor’s need. It could be a lunch spot with ready to grab and go Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich) and Bubble Tea, a great place to buy rare gifts and jewelry, get your groceries, rent videos or trim your bangs. It is only fitting then that we should pick Food, the Marketplace, Spaces and Places, and Culture, as the four categories for the third annual EXPOSED: Little Saigon photo contest.
As a project run by IDEA Space, a program of the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), EXPOSED: Little Saigon is about community, or rather using imagery to unlock and draw attention to the unique facets of one particular community, incidentally located in a very historical neighborhood. The purpose is to persuade all of Seattle to come and experience the neighborhood and then visually share those experiences with us. As you take up this challenge, aided by an unusually sunny October, we wait to be yet again inspired and awed by your perception of Little Saigon, as revealed in each entry.