What is Asian American Photography?

I actually love photography, especially black and white photography.  I took a few classes in college, but in favor of music, I never pursued it.  The few photographs I took tended to be self portraits or have friends or family as subjects.  I’ve wondered if that makes it Asian American photography.

Because of some of those photographs (even in their rough, nascent state), I was asked to submit to an Asian American publication, which then led to a gallery show request.  I didn’t know what I was thinking when I accepted because it was a complete disaster!  I was fresh out of college, did not have a portfolio nor money…I don’t even think I owned my own camera!

Asian American male and female (circa 1998)

Looking back, I can see that there was a need.  Thus, the request.  Looking around today, I can still see there is a need.  But what is Asian American photography?  Was my photography considered Asian American because of the subject matter?  Was it considered Asian American photography because I’m Asian American?  Or, should Asian American photography be considered anything that documents the Asian American experience?  I suppose it’s serendipitous when one or more of those elements come together.

The questions seem comparable to “Are you guys a Christian band?”, which we’re often asked.  We’re Christians in a band, which is different than a Christian band since the latter seems to connote a praise and worship type of style.  We sing about the things that are important to us, which includes our relationship with Christ.  However, our lyrics, like our music videos, do have lots of levels.

Why isn’t an engineer asked if he/she is a Christian engineer or a teacher asked if he/she is a Christian teacher?

I did a Google search on Gen X Asian American photography and photographers, but unfortunately, I didn’t come up with what I was hoping to find, which I guess was more of a substantial list of arty Asian American photographers.

However, I did find a list of Asian American commercial/photo-journalistic photographers:


Below, from that same list, are a couple of photo-journalistic photographers I found interesting for different reasons.

Jiling Lin – Although all of the photographs aren’t technically spot-on, I caught her vision, and the heart and soul of what she was trying to communicate.  There’s an honesty and earthiness that comes through the work, and reflects the beauty and warmth of culture and family.


Michael Yamashita – The majority of his photographs seems to be of landscapes or people of Asia.  There’s something beautifully-haunting about his photographs.  I think it’s the style of his photography (i.e.: graininess, etc.) that captures and reflects the imperfection of humans and frailty of life.


Let me know if you know of any good Asian American photographers.  I’d love to view their work.


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