Rail­road photo shows Asian-Amer­i­cans

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By ADELINA ZHANG in New York For China Daily

Asian Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher Corky Lee’s re­cre­ation of the orig­i­nal pho­to­graph show­ing the com­ple­tion of the Transcon­ti­nen­tal Rail­road to in­clude all Asian Amer­i­cans was part of the 35th An­nual Asian Amer­i­can and Pa­cific Is­lan­der Her­itage Fes­ti­val.

A con­tem­po­rary dance the­ater per­for­mance in­spired by Lee’s work also was cel­e­brated at the fes­ti­val. Di­rec­tor Wan Zhao cre­ated the new show for the Coali­tion of Asian Pa­cific Amer­i­cans (CAPA), called Gen, started Thurs­day and will run un­til Sun­day at the 440 Stu­dios in New York. Zhao and ac­tress Vanessa Rappa per­formed ex­cerpts from the show at the fes­ti­val on June 5 to cel­e­brate Asian roots.

Zhao said the pho­to­graph made her won­der what Asian wives were do­ing when their hus­bands were in Amer­ica build­ing the rail­way and the show is based on that. The per­for­mance fo­cused on the his­tory of Asian an­ces­tors from the 1840s to the present day.

“I want people to ask them­selves ‘Who are you? What’s in your blood? Where are you go­ing?’ That is very im­por­tant,” said Zhao. The pho­to­graph of the com­ple­tion of the Transcon­ti­nen­tal Rail­road, with two steam lo­co­mo­tives fac­ing each other and dozens of men crowded around them, is part of Amer­i­can his­tory. The orig­i­nal photo — East and West Shak­ing Hands at the Lay­ing of the Last Rail — was taken by Andrew Rus­sell in 1869.

The photo does not show one Asian or Asian-Amer­i­can worker from among the 12,000-man work­force that re­ally did most of the heavy lift­ing for the project.

With the help of the Utah Chap­ter of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans, Lee or­ga­nized a group of Asian Amer­i­cans to recre­ate the pho­to­graph as a way set­ting his­tory straight through art, he said. The new photo, which was taken at the same spot as the orig­i­nal, now fea­tures about 250 Asian Amer­i­cans. “I was re­claim­ing an as­pect of Amer­i­can his­tory that was de­nied,” Lee said at a news con­fer­ence in New York. “It was an


A dancer per­forms dur­ing a new show called Gen for the Coali­tion of Asian Pa­cific Amer­i­cans (CAPA).

Diana Lee,

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