Beauty in A Thousand Words


"I was born in springtime, grew up in California and in Taiwan, and attended school in the San Francisco Bay Area which I consider home and a truly magical place.

Being of an introverted and sensitive nature, as a child I fell in love with mathematics as well as writing, receiving comments on my pencil sketch drawings and pieces of writing.

Art was discouraged at home, because it was not seen as practical. But adversity seems to have made an artistic sense of beauty all the more precious to me. One year I was taken to foster care, but thanks to the love for learning my mother had nurtured in me, I was able to focus on my newfound interest in physics.

As my father had us move from the US to Taiwan for my high school years, I turned to reading classical literature and to studying both Asian and European languages.

And whenever I felt alone, or wondered why misfortune happened, or missed both my parents as I often did, I discovered a faithful sense of belonging in the written word.

For me, school had always been a sanctuary away from chaos, and I flourished in this most encouraging atmosphere, during undergraduate years in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley and as a graduate researcher at UC Davis where my research adviser told me I should be a writer.

So often it was the appreciation for beauty that held me together and enabled me to go on. Many people see only my academic strengths and signs of excellence, but I feel it is art, and the ability to share one's innermost love for beauty - in the creation of a novel, the rendering of a portrait, the imagination out of the existential of the essential - that is at the heart of what I love and do.

This year, I am a UCSF graduate student interested in nature and the sciences with a love for literature and Eastern and Western languages. I think I am here because of the beauty found in words - and in pictures that are worth a thousand words.

The sense of beauty I get to experience in word and photograph reminds me of what is genuinely worthwhile in this life.

Sadness, too, speaks of a beauty deeper than emotion. I chose a photograph of myself in an intimate and vulnerable state because it reveals the side of myself that is hidden but can feel hurt, broken, afraid, hesitant, orphaned, lost, abandoned.

Once all the hidden is known, I hide only deeper within myself, until the invisible becomes visible, and all the sadness is brought to light and, in this way, healed.

There is so much that words can express - and so much more that words do not, and I hope this simple photograph lets others feel at home in themselves and comfortable in a world where words are beautiful and yet not enough."

Joan Chang