AABANY, community groups pay homage to Corky Lee’s life and work

by PDM STAFF

Corky Lee speaking at Columbus Park at Stop the Hate March on July 2020. | Photo courtesy of Barbara Yau

NEW YORK – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) joins several community groups to pay homage to the life and work of Corky Lee, a renowned New York City-based photographer, in a presentation of a group photo exhibit called “Photographic Justice: A Tribute to Corky Lee.”

The exhibit will be open on May 20 until November 20, 2022 with a public reception at 6 p.m. at the Hon. Charles P. Sifton Gallery of the United States Courthouse for the Eastern District of New York (225 Cadman Plaza East). Hon. Margo Brodie, Hon. Robert Levy and curator Chee Wang Ng will give their remarks.

Lee documented the Asian American movement through the last five decades. Besides Lee, the exhibit also includes the works of other Asian American photographers. Lee used the term “photographic justice” to describe his mission to rectify the exclusion of Asian Americans in America’s visual history. His last project was to chronicle the effort to combat anti-Asian violence before his passing from COVID-19 on January 27, 2021.

According to AABANY, Lee was their long-time friend. He was the photographer of AABANY’s Annual Dinner for many years. AABANY also said that in 2017, they co-sponsored Lee’s photo exhibit in celebration of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. At the event, Lee discussed his experiences as a photojournalist over the years and his role as the self-proclaimed “Undisputed Unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.”

By Corky Lee. The photo was taken in 2014 at Promontory Point, Utah, commemorating the transcontinental railroad’s completion. His image highlighted thousands of Chinese Americans that built the railroad omitted from the original photo featured in a book.

“Corky captured the integral role of Asian American communities in American history,” said AABANY President William Ng. “AABANY is grateful to have known him as an artist, activist, witness, neighbor, and friend. We are proud to continue honoring his memory through “Photographic Justice.”

In an online memorial in February 2021, Potri Ranka Manis of Kinding Sindaw, a Filipino Folk Dance group who emceed the tribute that night, said: “Corky Lee brought us all tonight together. Not with his camera, but with his passion that has lived with us. This is not just a memorial. It’s remembering Corky Lee.”

In May 2014, on the 145th anniversary of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific celebration, Lee replicated the photograph featuring instead descendants of Chinese laborers in the act of “photographic justice” to correct the omission.

Photographic Justice: A Tribute to Corky Lee is on view Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM at the Hon. Charles P. Sifton Gallery of the United States Courthouse for the Eastern District of New York (225 Cadman Plaza East).

With Ricky Rillera/PDM

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