An intimate look at the lives of New York’s Chinese immigrants
6:35 AM EDT, Tue April 25, 2017
"Untitled (77 Columbia St) I" —
Louis Chan's life-size interior photographs of residents of New York City's Chinatown -- now showing in an exhibition called "At Home" -- burst with intimate detail.
"Untitled (82 Bayard St) I" —
Each item is a clue to a practical need or sentimental attachment. A map of China. A flattened Cheerios box. A solitary orange. Who placed them in the room? Who lives here?
"Untitled (77 Columbia St) II" —
The photographs invite you to piece together the lives of unseen Chinese American immigrants through the sum of the objects they collect.
"Untitled (37 Allen St) VI" —
"I want the physical objects to do more of the talking," says Chan. "A lot of these spaces are so cluttered, you're always looking for new things. You could just keep decoding."
"Untitled (82 Bayard St) IV" —
Chan says he approached "My Home" as an ethnographic project, acting as an artist, sociologist, and historian at the same time. Everything is shot in large format, with a deadpan style that highlights each room's contents.
Installation shot —
Not wanting the images to be limited by material restrictions, Chan printed his works as large as possible — "the biggest I could possibly afford," he says. "It feels like you're there, but it's still a photograph."
"Untitled (205 Avenue C) III" —
"I don't arrange anything, I just let the personal items come to life," Chan says. "It's very sterile, scientific, like crime scene photography. It's almost like evidence, when you bring a photograph to court."
"Untitled (205 Avenue C) I" —
Chan -- who says his own house is bare and uncluttered -- sees the project as a personal exploration of "identity and assimilation."
"Untitled (205 Avenue C) II" —
Chan saw how immigrants had unintentionally transformed everyday objects into vessels for a history that he was desperate to preserve and understand.
Installation shot —
"This is for my parents," Chan says. "As you get older, you learn about your roots, you become proud of your folks being Chinese. So you start bringing that back into your life and keep that."