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Asian Pacific Roots in the Big Apple

March 20 - April 23, 2009
Opening Reception
Friday, March 20, 2009 | 6:00 - 9:00 pm



Asian Pacific Roots in the Big Apple
2009 Mayoral Immigration Heritage Week Photography Exhibition

A Photo Exhibit Curated By Corky Lee

March 20 - April 23, 2009

Alan Chin, Corky Lee, Jeff, Liao Chien-Hsing and Karen Zhou


Curator Statement

The collection of images by the photographers represents a pictorial and picturesque omission in America's discussion of what constitutes the American landscape and who belongs. In a city of immense and diverse peoples, Asians are not often seen because of generations of benign neglect and indifference. As a nation of immigrants, I'm fortunate that the city of my birth recognizes that my ginseng roots can be nurtured in America's soil. That's what I was taught, that's what I believe. Perhaps through the universal language of photography Asian and Pacific peoples will be less foreign and better understood.


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Alan Chin

Alan Chin is from a Chinese-American immigrant family, born and raised in New York's Chinatown. Since 1996 he has covered conflicts in Iraq, the ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Alan has most recently documented the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi, the 2008 Presidential Campaign, and followed the trail of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek and The New York Times, exhibits at Sasha Wolf Gallery and the Asian-American Arts Center, and is in the collection of the Museum Of Modern Art. The New York Times nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize twice, in 1999 and 2000.

Artist Statement

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY: Photographs of the Chinese New Year in New York's Chinatown

Every year as I walk the streets of Chinatown during the New Year, families spanning the generations joyfully reunite. I run into old friends and relatives, many whom I see only this once each year, but I find myself thinking -- and by extension, photographing -- more nostalgic, melancholy feelings. Because the celebration has changed, just as New York has changed, and with it the Chinese immigrant community.

Most obviously, long gone are the firecrackers, rockets, and their attendant paper debris, their acrid smoke and smell. That chaos has been replaced with a few controlled explosions, managed displays. There's a formal parade, complete with bilingual announcements, when once it was rare to hear Mandarin, let alone English, in the Cantonese and Toishanese world of my childhood.

I find myself inadvertently scanning the faces in the crowds, absurdly hoping to recognize my near and dear people, my great-uncles, grandmother, father, and all the others now dead and gone. Of course I don't find my ghosts! But I see my fellow Chinese-Americans, young and old, dressed in their finest, replete with dignity, enjoying the moment, and although they are not my own family, they each have their own private dramas and histories that I can only begin to understand the faintest hint of as I photograph them.

And that's why there are no dragons in these photographs, or red envelopes, or the other symbols and colorful displays of our holiday. Rather, it is the individuals, the characters and personalities of the street, who interest me. Each of us with our own story, fresh-off-the-boat or American-born, gathered together once each year, to start it afresh.


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Corky Lee

Corky Lee is the eldest son of four and one sister whose father was an "paper son" and entered the U.S. just before the Great Depression. He grew up above the family hand laundry business because his father could not find work as an arc welder, a trade he learned during his tenure with the 14th Army Air Corp./Flying Tigers in World War II.

Lee is a self taught, self appointed "unofficial, undisputed Asian American photographer laureate". He is considered the dean of Asian Pacific American community/documentary photographers prying his trade for the last 35 years. He calls his passion and activism "photographic justice", bringing to light the struggles and contributions of Asian Pacific Americans.

His journalist accolades have come from the NY Press Association, Asian American Journalist Association, elected officials from NY to California and has exhibited in major cities and campuses from Honolulu to Harvard University. He's been an artist-in-residence at Syracuse University and NYU. He's a widower and wants to publish his life's work "before he's six feet under pushing up daisies."


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JEFF CHIEN-HSING LIAO

JEFF CHIEN-HSING LIAO (b. 1977 Taiwan) is a Taiwanese-born photographer now based in New York City, where he earned an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and a BFA from the Pratt Institute. He is the first prize winner of the New York Times "Capture the Times" photo contest. Liao's work has been featured in several solo and group exhibitions, and is represented by private and public collections, including JGS Inc. Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Queens Museum of Art in New York, J. Paul Getty Museum, George Eastman House, Norton Museum of Art and Deutsche Bank. His photographs have been widely featured in publications, including Art in America, ArtNews, Camera Art, Photo District News, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and the Village Voice. His new monograph, Habitat 7, is published by Nazraeli Press in 2007 and feature an essay by Ann W. Tucker. Liao is represented by Julie Saul Gallery in New York.

Artist Statement

Habitat 7
Four of the earliest major civilizations were formed in river valleys. The fertile lands provided surpluses of food that allowed for the growth of populations, development of cities, and thus civilizations were created.

Though we now live in an industrial and technological era, where the survival of our existence no longer simply depends on the availability of food, the pattern of our quest for living space still resembles that of the ancient river valley civilizations. Such is the premise of the 7 Train, the seven-mile-long subway line that connects New York City's Times Square with seven communities in northwest Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the country.

On a smaller but equally complex scale, some of the distinctive characteristics of a civilization - an intricate and highly organized society with the development of elaborate forms of economic exchange, as well as the establishment of sophisticated, formal social institutions such as organized religion, education, and the arts - are evident in the communities that have developed along the tracks of the 7 Train.

While I've been living along these tracks for years, I am still constantly awed by the complexity of the communities formed alongside it as well as the harmony so many people of distinct backgrounds are able to live in. I set out to photograph the 'habitat' of the 7 Train as I came to see it, with a focus on not the individual but the people as a whole, as well as their relationship with their environment.


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Karen Zhou

Karen Zhou is a self taught photographer who came to America at three from China. Her interest in photography was first piqued during college days backpacking throughout Europe. As an up and coming photographer, she has been published in National Geographics' book on Lunar New Year and has been a contributor of food photography to Time Out NY. Karen currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Artist Statement

As a young child growing up in Chinatown, my father would take endless pictures of my sister and I, documenting our childhood through his camera's len. When I went away to Europe to study abroad, he gave the camera to me with hopes that I would use it to see the world. In my travels, I rarely leave home without my camera. It has been a journey and a way of telling stories.

In documenting the APA communities, there is a richness to the diversity and flavor of each culture. I've tried to express each moment as intimately as if the viewer was there seeing the subject with me.

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