This Photographer Followed One Family on Ludlow Street for 12 Years

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 at 5:15 am by

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The Lams of Ludlow Street, Photo: Thomas Holton

Photographer Thomas Holton didn’t grow up in Chinatown, but felt a strong connection to the neighborhood. His grandparents had lived there, and he always saw it as more than a tourist destination.

While spending a few months in 2002 accompanying a housing advocate who worked in the area, Holton met the Lam family, a couple with three children who lived in a 350 square-foot apartment on Ludlow Street.

As Holton got to know the Lams, he started becoming a frequent visitor, documenting their changing lives through his photography. After chronicling the family for 12 years (in which the children grew up and the parents split up), Holton began to exhibit his images.

Here’s a bit of the story in his own words:

Growing up in New York City I have watched most people regard Chinatown simply as a tourist attraction and a weekend destination for dim sum and cheap counterfeit goods.  While I have never lived in Chinatown, my grandparents did, and I knew that Chinatown was more than the stereotypical images seen in travel brochures and postcards. Although I am half-Chinese and have spent a considerable amount of time in Chinatown, I never experienced a bond or connection to the neighborhood or the culture; I always felt I was a visitor.  At the beginning of this project, I knew I wanted to get behind closed doors and photograph more than the superficial images of Chinatown’s street scenes.  I wanted to experience more of the daily life of Chinatown.

While accompanying a local housing advocate for several months in 2002, I met the Lam family (Steven, Shirley, Michael, Franklin and Cindy) on one of our home visits.  I returned several times to the Lams’ home with photographs, and Shirley and Steven were always very friendly and welcomed me into their home.  I increasingly began to participate in their everyday family rituals and to recognize the dynamics and relationships within their family.  Eventually, I began to feel like family.

He recently launched a Kickstarter with the goal of turning his work into a photography book.

The Kickstarter goal has already been met (more than $33K), but you can still contribute today until 2pm.

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