Next on visualizAsian.com: Meet Corky Lee!

I caught Corky Lee preparing to shoot photos of singer-songwriter Cynthia Lin at a 2006 Asian festival in New York City (picture #22)

We’re thrilled to announce the next interview of visualizAsian.com’s Asian American Empowerment Series, a free one-hour conversation with award-winning photojournalist Corky Lee, who has captured Asian America through his lenses for over three decades! Register now for the call, which will be Tuesday April 20 at 6 pm PT — this one’s going to be extra-special!

In addition to the conversation that you can listen to as usual, via phone or webcast, we’ll be showing Corky’s work in a slideshow, and you can vote on your 10 favorite images from the 30 shown here, and Corky will share the stories behind the Top 10 during our talk!


We’ve been privileged to know Corky for a few years. The New York-based photographer has been a fixture at Asian American events, gatherings, meetings, conventions and protests since the 1970s, when the idea of “Asian Americans” instead of separate Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, etc communities was a new concept. We first met Corky when he was in Denver for an annual banquet of the Organization of Chinese Americans and Japanese American Citizens League. He was there to auction off a framed print of a group shot he took, of Chinese American descendants of 1800s railroad workers who worked on the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, a big event in American history (the first time that the east and west coasts were connected in trade and commerce by a transcontinental railroad). If the photo is chosen by you (it’s #18), Corky can relate the story behind the image.

We’ve run into Corky at various conventions for the Asian American Journalists Association, a group he’s very deeply involved with. He received the Dr. Susan Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice Award, a great honor that he deserves, from the AAJA at the organization’s national convention last year in Boston.

From his bio on the website for New York University, where he was Artist-In-Residence:

Corky’s a self-taught photographer, and the “undisputed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.” The ubiquitous Corky has covered the day-to-day lives of Asian Pacific Americans, and he’s been there to capture some historical moments in American history.

For over 30 years, Corky has used his camera to ensure that the faces of Asian Pacific Americans and their experiences be included in American history. His mission has been to document the incredibly diverse Asian American communities ignored by mainstream media. In an interview in AsianWeek Lee commented: “I’d like to think that every time I take my camera out of my bag, it’s like drawing a sword to combat indifference, injustice and discrimination, trying to get rid of stereotypes.”

At once intensely personal and socially conscious, Corky’s self-styled photojournalism crosses the divides of different Asian nationalities, and presents a rich picture of AAPIs adjusting and finding their place in America. As a photojournalist imbued with an unyielding passion for community activism, he’s challenged stereotypes by offering diverse images from the often invisible and excluded Asian Pacific American communities.

His work, which has been described as “only a small attempt to rectify omissions in our history text books,” has appeared in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Associated Press, The Villager and Downtown Express, as well as exhibitions throughout the United States, including Boston, San Francisco, Honolulu and Denver. On college campuses, his photographs have been exhibited at Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Lee contends that he owes much of his success to the Asian American press, notably A. magazine, Filipinas magazine and Koream Journal in addition to the following newspapers: AsianWeek, Asian New Yorker, NY Nichibei, Rafu Shimpo, International Examiner and Hawaii Herald.

Born and raised Queens, N.Y., Lee is a second-generation Chinese American and the eldest child of a “paper son” laundryman and a seamstress. Lee is a graduate of Queens College and lives in Queens.

He was the 2002 Artist-In-Residence at New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program.

Corky’s photographs are in 40 to 50 books, including a retrospective he’s publishing this summer. Three of Corky’s photographs are also included in a recently published coffeetable book, “100 NY Photographers” edited by Cynthia Dantzic and published by Schiffer Book Publishing.

His images are in good company, flanked by work from the likes of Bruce Davidson, Annie Leibovitz, Jay Maisel, Elliot Erwitt and Mary Ellen Mark — all iconic photographers of the last century.

We’re honored to be able to share Corky Lee’s talent and fascinating history with visualizAsian.com listeners. And, we’re pretty excited to be able to show you his photos here, and during the show, and let you vote on the ones he should talk about.

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