Photographer captures moments in history
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 03:03
Renowned Asian−American photographer Corky Lee yesterday evening delivered a keynote speech in the Remis Sculpture Court about his role in photographing Asian−American history to open his exhibition “A Place Called Asian America.”
Lee shared a selection of his photographs from the exhibit with the attendees and described his humble upbringing and experiences throughout his 40−plus years of being a photographer.
“I can’t sing or dance or write or paint, but give me a camera and you won’t regret it,” he said. “This has been my motto for about 40 years, and I will continue to do this work until I can’t.”
He said he is passionate about making sure Asian− Americans are remembered for their contributions in the United States.
“[It is an] attempt to rectify the omissions of Asian −Americans as part of the fabric of society,” he said.
Lee said his work has been reproduced in a variety of media outlets, including the New York Times and Time Magazine.
The 24 photographs displayed included an array of vital moments in Asian−American history, from the 1982 public mobilization for the murder of Vincent Chin to Asian−American responses to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Among the serious photographs were visual captures of humorous moments, including a pair of Asian−American women who battled as competitive eaters and a flash mob dancing to Psy’s song “Gangnam Style.”
Lee described the subject of his photography as the product of community relations — taking photography leads from private citizens in the form of faxes, telephone messages and emails, and then traveling to places to capture any interesting moments relating to Asian−Americans.
“In addition to civil rights subjects, I look for things that people are not familiar with, be it social commentary or some humor, as shown in the picture of the middle−aged, 5−foot−3−inch women competitive eaters who, in 2010, consumed a combined 72 hotdogs in 10 minutes,” Lee said.
The exhibition was made possible by the Asian−American Studies Committee, the American Studies Program and Asian−American Alliance with funding from the Nat R. & Martha M. Knaster Charitable Trust, which will also sponsor a photography workshop led by Lee from 6 to 8 p.m. today in the Alumnae Lounge.
“I hope that the Asian−American minor program at Tufts is a spark that will ignite a fire of change for the path of an Asian−American major program,” Lee said.
The photographs on display were selected by a group of student curators that volunteered to work together with Lee for the exhibition, according to sophomore Zoe Uvin. The students, including Uvin, sophomores Esther Kim and Shinny Vang and junior Diana Wang, began as early as December to compile this exhibition with their combined belief in the importance of the Asian−American narrative in American history as well as the need for support of the Asian−American studies program at Tufts.
“The American history in my class years has always been dominated by the white majority,” Uvin said. “It was just my realization of taking the Asian−America course, by accident, that Asian−Americans have been a part of American history for 300−plus years and that this minor could be an opportunity to teach students about the history they missed in their 12−plus years of schooling.”
American Studies Program senior lecturer Jean Wu echoed the importance of the Asian−American studies minor at Tufts.
“The exhibition...is a momentous occasion for this department and the acceptance of the Asian−American studies minor at Tufts,” Wu said.
As a whole, Vang said “A Place Called Asian−America” was a pivotal event for the Asian−American studies program and the importance of the inception of this minor at Tufts.
“I’m Asian−American, and I never knew about Asian−American history or how Asian−Americans were part of American history, so having an Asian−American studies minor helps students connect to their education,” Vang said. “Seeing myself as a part of history makes things more meaningful.”