Tales of An
Annandale Summer

Director ···· Ricky Lam
Published ···· June 2019, July-August 2020
Additional Photographers ···· Tiffany, Hawa, Omar, Lynn, Ariana

Models ···· Ariana, Fatima, Parisa, Todd, Yassmin, Calvin, Tiffany, Hawa, Lynn, Chynna, Tsering, and Aki

The outdoors feels quiet. There are murmurs of my friends voices in the background, but they seem filtered out as I watch the clouds pass by, never being in the same place as before. I scoop a piece of mochi out of my taro ice cream bowl, practically melted from the sun’s embrace. Even though the world feels silent right now, I don’t feel lonely. For the first time in a while, I feel finally a peace – hopeful for what was next.

COVID-19 crept up at an inconvenient time, especially since I was about to enter my first real job within six months. Quarantine wasn’t too bad per se – I was already unemployed for a while so staying at home a bit longer was not my worst nightmare. The problem was that the world told me I had to still be on pause for a little while longer. And it didn’t get much better from there.

With the world collapsing and society itself becoming increasingly more aware at how deeply rooted our issues are in the system, I was less inclined to participate in any creative work. Help was needed elsewhere in a much more direct fashion – I knew where my priorities laid. Luckily the alone time and activism aid wasn’t a waste as I got to branch out into new hobbies and reconnect with family. Getting into my new routine, I’ve begun reading and working out again. I even completed some of my video game backlog (and made the list even bigger). If anything, I felt like I did more for myself and others in those three months, then the past two years post-grad. It was like I was reclaiming parts of my identity that were lost long ago.
I never completely shut out my creative cravings though – every now and then I would draft a brief up on some potential projects I’d be interested in pursuing whenever things got a little better. There was one project I was so ready to pull off called “IMMATERIAL,” but I knew I was not capable of handling 3D animation and designs just yet so that’s been on the back burner.

I never completely shut out my creative cravings though – every now and then I would draft a brief up on some potential projects I’d be interested in pursuing whenever things got a little better. Multiple complex and convoluted themes later, I ended with something a little familiar. From all the heartache we collectively faced more than usual this past year, “Tales of an Annandale Summer” was meant to find our way back towards joy. Oftentimes it felt like our grip on life was lost – this project was meant to reclaim it back.


Miles high, the night sky illuminated on me
Nearly 3AM, I might be losing my mind

Steady goes it – we were in for a ride
I felt alive when we rode together, finally at ease to breathe

Throughout my years living at home, I never took many photos in my hometown. Granted there there really wasn’t much in Annandale – it’s one of the more impoverished areas in the exceedingly wealthy Northern Virginia area with the benefit of being a mini K-town. I mean we used to have a Fuddruckers and that foreclosure was probably one of the saddest days of my life, no matter how nasty the conditions in that place were. For this project, I decided to make it a love letter to the town that ended up being my home. I wasn’t born here, but the memories I collectively gathered throughout the years here has created a huge place in my heart that oftentimes it’s hard to let go whenever I’m away from home.

What is your snocream bowl and why is it not the taro flavor with lychee fruit, mochi, and condensed milk AKA the ultimate combo?

I joke about the amount of times I bring up “The Block,” but I seriously think I have a problem with how much I think about Snocream. It does not help that I practically stand next to it whenever I work at Pokéworks. For context, Snocream is essentially shaved ice cream. I remember the first time one old friend introduced me and I was never the same. The Block wasn’t a food hall yet, but instead Snocream was merely an ice cream truck. Hearing that they wanted to hang in a rusty bus in the abandoned Kmart alley wasn’t appealing whatsoever, but I’m telling you that first bite really changed the game. And it’s only shaved ice cream! I’m lowkey mad that I didn’t come up with this phenomenon because I really would have been up a wealth level or two.
Snocream became successful enough to transform itself into a food hall, with several vendors adding to its lineup. Even after COVID, it’s still a bustling space, even if the DJ nights can be a lot. It really does make me proud that such a place exists within Annandale. I decided to work at the poké shop a few weeks ago just to keep busy and the natural high it gives off every shift is something I haven’t felt in a while. It can be exhausting, but it feels good to be doing something instead of moping around. I have a lot of respect for all the people there and as I type this I’m excited to see them again. I haven’t met new people in a while and I’m eager to learn more about their journeys. And it’s always nice to have a little nice confidence booster when I finish a bowl or wrap and it’s looking quite… exquisite. Like damn I can’t cook, but call me an excellent food stylist~

“For the first time in a while, I feel finally a peace – hopeful for what was next.”

For Green Springs, my first interaction with it was on a field trip and then eventually having prom photos there. I don’t think I really recognized its photogenic qualities until probably later visit during college and noticing that there aren’t many public gardens around the Northern Virginia area. A joke always gets passed around the group how much I dislike the place nowadays because we’ve had probably over ten photoshoots here and my tolerance for seeing the same plants is growing thin. But then whenever I want something natural to shoot, I always end up caving to the place because there’s nothing else I can think of! It really is my cursed haven. Even so, it’s been a nice place to regroup every once in a while when we haven’t seen each other, especially since the pandemic. It’s the one part of Annandale that you feel at peace – only the natural white noise is there to drift you away. The memories we have there are unforgettable, especially during shoots. As much as I dislike the place and its undeveloped parking spaces that incentivizes people to illegally park everywhere, its charm is more than enough for me to always be lured back into its arms.

“I met”

I met Hawa when she saw me at my most ignorant – my bowlcut era. I met Fatima when we were paired up to face trauma itself known as IB French. I met Ariana when she ridiculed me as Ricky Flame and she’s been public enemy #1 ever since. I (properly) met Yassmin when I found out I was her public enemy after I befriended Fatima and Ariana. I met Lynn when we sat together in government and for some reason, decided to send each other bootleg links to the newest “Game of Thrones” episode. I met Todd when I found out all the girls back in middle school sobbed when he came out. I met Tiffany when I realized her old best friend was secretly in love with me and I had no clue. I met Jenny when I found out maybe carrot cake stans do have a place to stay. I met Parisa after realizing she wasn’t just a random fan following my Instagram. I met Amitav when my old college roommate’s friend group was somehow intrinsically linked with the rest of my friends at UVA. I met Maddie when her blue eyes were too alluring to resist. I met Calvin when I decided to brand him as my long-lost cousin that separated after the war. I met Chynna when she introduced the air fryer to the house that frightens Yassmin to this day. I met Tsering and have never known peace with her Sheik in “Smash Bros.”

A few of them make up “Conjunctivitis” – a name inspired by Justin Bieber randomly flooding his social with photos of his left eye having conjunctivitis. Some of them are new friends met along the way. All of them I admire.

Then there’s Annandale High – the cursed place. Granted, I did meet my (probably) life-long friends here so I can’t hate on it too much. Having a “reunion” type of shoot back at our high school was always in the back of my mind ever since I couldn’t stop thinking about “Glee” and “Riverdale.” Every time I’d bring it up to my friends it’d be met with immediate disapproval. We all linked up after parking and everyone proclaimed how uncomfortable they were with being back here. Which is completely valid, but I think there’s so many memories we’ve had within this school that I don’t want to shut it out. From the nonstop fights happening around the halls known as “Fight Week,” being permanently scarred by our IB Math and French teachers, being close with the entire English Department, winning awards for our short-film “Cards Against,” to me co-leading the overall direction for our senior yearbook – there definitely is some good that existed. One of my Pokéworks co-workers recognized me from my “football hype” videos back in the day and that caught me off guard, especially since he was from a different high school.
There was one point where I was making nonstop videos for yearbook and a few of them caught the attention from the entire district. Like what the fuck was a school named after the atomic bomb with an Atoms mascot gotta make cool shit with “Midnight City” booming in the background? Those videos are so hard to watch nowadays, but I’ll admit it’s cool to see the progression I noticed in terms of my art direction. Coincidentally, we came back the day I posted the first video so there was weird juju in the air. And again, I’ve stayed connected to so many friends at that place and I’m pretty sure it’s hard for a regular high school friend group to be stable for this long. So yeah, I thought it’d be pretty cool to go back to that school and see how much we’ve grown since. And guess what happened – I got to shoot one of my favorite group shots. Like we look so fucking good I cannot even explain. I don’t care how annoying it is – I’m so grateful to know all of them. I really hope the Annandale Soccer Youth League players saw that energy illuminating on the bleachers as we did the photoshoot during their match.

There are a bunch of other places sprinkled into the project that I will not disclose. Again, joy is the overall mood for the project and I wanted that to be expressed through the everyday quirks of my friends. From the wrinkles they get when they form a smile, to the way they will ignore everything going around them to belt to Jordin Spark’s “No Air,” “Tales of an Annandale Summer” is meant to remind of the past’s upbringings, and moving forward to bigger and better things. It was my love letter to Annandale post-apocalypse – something I hope to show my loved ones that the best has yet to come.