Corky Lee

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Corky Lee
Born Lĭ Yángguó
Queens, NYC
Occupation Photographer

Corky Lee (born as Lĭ Yángguó 1948 in Queens, New York City) is an American photographer. His work chronicles and explore the diversity and nuances of Asian American culture overlooked by mainstream media and to make sure Asian American history is included as a part of American history.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lee began studying American history at Queens College in 1965.

He says his work was inspired by an 1869 photo he saw in his social studies text that celebrated the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah. Its construction had involved thousands of Chinese workers, but the photo depicting representative laborers showed none of them.

Photographic work[edit]

Lee's work has documented key events in Asian American political history.

In 1975 Lee took a picture of a Chinese American man that was hurt by members of the New York City Police Department and was being hauled by the police officers. His picture was posted in the front page of the New York Post diary. The day of the publication of his picture and the notice of that event 20,000 people marched from Chinatown to City Hall protesting against police brutality.[2]

Lee also photographed the protests that took place after the controversial 1982 murder of Vincent Chin in Michigan.[3] Chin was a young Chinese American man living in Detroit and was killed by Ronald Ebens, a superintendent at Chrysler Motors, and his stepson. The perpetrators attacked Chin, of Chinese descent, after mistaking him for being from Japan, as Japanese companies were blamed for the loss of American auto industry jobs.[4]

Corky Lee refers to himself as the “undisputed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.” Lee’s photographs have documented the daily lives of Asian Americans as well as various historical moments in American history.[5]

Corky Lee Day[edit]

David Dinkins, New York City mayor proclaimed May 5, 1988 to be "Corky Lee Day" recognizing Lee's work as an important contribution to New York City communities.[6]



  1. ^ Kaowthumrong, Patricia (March 1, 2014). "Spotlight: Corky Lee, Asian American photographer". Asian Avenue Magazine. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ "ART/ARCHITECTURE; Getting Asian-Americans Into the Picture - New York Times". Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ Boxer, Sarah (Aug 4, 2002). "Getting Asian Americans Into the Picture". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Wu, Frank H. (22 June 2012). "Why Vincent Chin Matters". New York Times. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  5. ^ Lipson, Karin (March 15, 2013). "Making a Sometimes Invisible Minority Visible". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  6. ^ Chang, Lia. "Pictures at an Exhibition: Asian America's Premier Photographer Makes American History." Asianweek. 17. (1997 Aug 07). Retrieved from ProQuest