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Pao Houa Her’s first major monograph, My grandfather turned into a tiger … and other illusions, explores the fundamental concepts of home and belonging: illusion, desire, and loss.

Pao Houa Her’s work draws inspiration from a myriad of sources: apocryphal family lore; portraits of the artist’s community and self; and reimagined landscapes, with Minnesota and Northern California standing in for Laos. The compelling and personal narratives are grounded in the traditions and contemporary metaphors of the Hmong diasporic community. My grandfather turned into a tiger brings together four of the artist’s major series, including the title work which reimagines her family’s history before leaving Laos. Other work deals with a scandal within the Hmong community in which hundreds of elders were swindled as part of a fraudulent investment scheme built around the promise of a new Hmong homeland.

In another series, tonally rich black-and-white still lifes of silk flowers collected by her mother are presented alongside images of flowers that adorn the digitally manipulated, hyper-colored popular backdrops used in Hmong photo studios and on dating apps. This beautifully designed monograph showcases Her’s keen eye on the line between ersatz and authenticity; as the artist has stated, photography is “a truth if you want it to be a truth.”

My grandfather turned into a tiger is the result of the Next Step Award, a partnership between Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, in collaboration with the 7|G Foundation.

Each cover is unique, featuring up to thirty-two jacket iterations, but is anchored by the same sticker on the front and back.


Pao Houa Her (born in Laos, 1982) is a Hmong American artist and assistant professor in photography and moving images at the University of Minnesota. She holds an MFA in photography from the Yale University School of Art (2012) and a BFA in photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2009). Her’s work has been presented as a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in 2022–23 and she was included as part of the Whitney Biennial in 2022. In 2023, Her was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is represented by the Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis.

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