Corky Lee, Storied Photographer Who Chronicled Asian American Culture, Dies of Covid-19

Posted on: January 28th, 2021 at 5:01 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

The Chinatown community this week mourns the passing of Corky Lee. News of his death early yesterday morning shocked at both the local and national levels.

Lee lost the battle with Covid-19, and died in New York City. He was 74.

Corky Lee, who identified as the “undisputed unofficial Asian American photographer laureate,” spent the better part of his life documenting the Asian experience in America. His passion in photography took him from coast to coast to document injustices, everyday life, and the issues facing Asian communities.

Corky Lee was a Chinatown icon seen almost daily with his trusty camera in hand looking for that perfect shot. He wasn’t the vociferous type of activist like myself, yet his photos spoke volumes. I had the pleasure of acquiring gallery space for one of his final shows last September and watching the master explain the backstory behind each image on display. One of his favorites was taken in Utah, where he posed transcontinental railroad worker descendants for a reenactment of the “East meets West” completion that linked the continent.

Lee was also a past commander of the “Sons of American Legion Kimlau Post” in Chinatown and proudly marched with the during parades.

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