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Corky Lee’s Asian America: Fifty Years of Photographic Justice
By Corky Lee
Foreword by Hua Hsu
Edited by Chee Wang Ng and Mae Ngai
A collection of over 200 breathtaking photos celebrating the history and cultural impact of the Asian American social justice movement, from a beloved photographer who sought to change the world, one photograph at a time
Known throughout his lifestyime as the “undisputed, unofficial Asian American photographer laureate,” the late photojournalist Corky Lee documented Asian American and Pacific Islander communities for fifty years, breaking the stereotype of Asian Americans as docile, passive, and, above all, foreign to this country.
Corky Lee’s Asian America is a stunning retrospective of his life’s work–a selection of the best photographs from his vast collection, from his start in New York’s Chinatown in the 1970s to his coverage of diverse Asian American communities across the country until his untimely passing in 2021.
Corky Lee’s Asian America traces Lee’s decades-long quest for photographic justice, following Asian American social movements for recognition and rights alongside his artistic development as an activist social photographer. Iconic photographs feature protests against police brutality in New York in the 1970s, a Sikh man draped in an American flag after 9/11, and a reenactment of the completion of the transcontinental railroad of 1869 featuring descendants of Chinese railroad workers, and his last photos of community life and struggle during the coronavirus pandemic. Asian American writers, artists, activists, and friends of Lee reflect on his life and career and provide rich historical and cultural context to his photographs, including a foreword from writer Hua Hsu and contributions from artist Ai Weiwei, filmmaker Renée Tajima-Peña, writer Helen Zia, photographer Alan Chin, historian Gordon Chang, playwright David Henry Hwang, and more. Featuring never-before-seen photographs alongside his best-known images, Corky Lee’s Asian America represents Lee’s mission to chronicle a history of inclusion, resistance, ethnic pride, and patriotism. This is a remarkable documentation of vital moments in Asian American history and a timely reminder that it’s also a history that we continue to make.
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