New York Chinatown: Resurfacing 80's Chinatown Through Old Negatives

If photograph is a time machine that takes you back; camera, then, is the creator that builds the scene where you back. What would come up with you while an old photographic series dating back to the 80’s history because of this pair?

“With the passage of time, everything changes. When you look at images from another time, often many years later, you see things you didn’t see before...” This answer was from documentary photographer Robert Glick (better known as Bud), when he re-edited project “New York Chinatown” from 30 years ago, finding images that he passed over the first time.

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Mr. Ng in Bachelor Apartment, Bayard St., 1982

Mr. Ng in Bachelor Apartment, Bayard St., 1982

It was the year of 1981, Bud Glick met John Kuo Wei Tchen, who later was one of the co-founders of the New York Chinatown History Project (now the Museum of Chinese in America, short in MOCA) and heard from him about the NYCHP. Bud Glick was excited about their goal of documenting the history and transformation of New York Chinatown through oral history, research, collection of artifacts and documentary photography. Consequently, 1981 became the year that Bud Glick started to work on this project.

Within few years in the early 1980s, Bud Glick documented the community as it transformed from an primarily older and male population (due to restrictive, discriminatory immigration laws) to a new generation of young families because of the rapidly expanding immigration, capturing the lives of the neighborhood’s denizens. [Laws that had stifled the influx of Chinese families, starting as early as 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, had been lessened but did not allow large-scale immigration until 1965.]

Division St., 1982.jpg

Division St., 1982

Rebecca with her children in their kitchen, 1982

- Rebecca with her children in their kitchen, 1982_副本.jpg

Rebecca with her children in their kitchen, 1982

Around 30 years later in 2010, Bud Glick revisited the series to digitize the negatives and made large prints. “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.”

- Garment Factory, 1983_副本.jpg

Garment factory, 1983

Club Lunch sandwich shop. 2 East Broadway, 1983

Kam Ho Lee with his grandson Vincent Lee, 9 Eldridge St., 1983, New York Chinatown.jpg

Kam Ho Lee with his grandson, Vincent Lee, 9 Eldridge St., 1983

Since sharing it online, Bud Glick has managed to identify over a dozen individuals in the the pictures, as people have recognized friends or family members and reached out.

In addition, revisiting it also gave Bud Glick a different sense about his work—the series has taken on new meaning and importance to him as time passing by. “I realize how much New York and New York Chinatown have changed since the early 1980’s. What seemed current and normal to me at the time, now feels like a record of a different era. The early 1980’s was a unique and fleeting time in the history of New York Chinatown.” said Bud, “after decades of development, 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.”

Chinese New Year, Bayard St., 1984

- Chinese New Year, Bayard St., 1984_副本.jpg

Chinese New Year, Bayard St., 1984

Bud Glick is still learning from revisiting this project. He thinks that exposure to the reality of other peoples’ lives always challenges our preconceived notions and can open our minds to seeing the world from someone else’s point of view,

- Wah Nan Co., 46 Mulberry St., 1982, New York Chinatown.jpg

Wah Nan Co., 46 Mulberry St., 1982






> Source: washingtonpost.com, hyperallergic.com, ucreative.com

> Photographer's Website: budglickphoto.com





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