From 1981 to the beginning of 1984 I worked on a photography project as part of the New York Chinatown History Project (NYCHP), now the Museum of Chinese in America. An older generation of Chinatown was being replaced by a rapidly expanding new influx of immigration. As a photographer, my goal was to document the transformation from an older and primarily male community (due to restrictive, discriminatory immigration laws) to a new generation of young families.
Recently I began scanning and making large prints of the Chinatown negatives. It’s exciting to revisit personal work that I did more than 30 years ago and interpret it digitally, a process that allows me the ability to get more out of a negative than I ever could in the darkroom. I’m able to give new life to old work. More importantly, time has changed me and the way that I see the work. I’ve found images, overlooked in the past, that due to the passage of time have taken on new meaning and import.
The early 1980’s was a unique time in the history of New York Chinatown. With the passage of time I see how my documentation of Chinatown life can both communicate what it felt like to live in Chinatown at that time and inform our current societal discussion of immigration.