Leica & Magnum: Chien-Chi Chang: Chinatown (New York and Fuzhou, 1992-2011)

If you’ve visited Chinatown, New York City, you’re familiar with the lively bounty of people, colors, sounds and smells that make up a thriving portion of lower Manhattan, but there’s another side to this area that most people don’t see.

In our latest photo essay made in collaboration with Magnum Photos, Chien-Chi Chang presents us with a collection of photographs taken between 1992-2011. In this video, each photograph is paired with sound and whether spirited, tranquil or airing distress; they add a range of emotions to aid his story which gives us a glimpse of the lives and living conditions of immigrant workers.

Chang states, “The men of Fuzhou, China leave their wives and families to work as dishwashers, cooks, carpenters and day laborers in New York City’s Chinatown. Their little leisure time is spent in overcrowded dorm like apartments where they cook, eat, sleep and dream of prosperity and of home.

The women of Fuzhou raise their children with the money absent fathers send back to China. Such bifurcated lives mean that many families spend their time waiting for the men of the household to either send for them or return home. In the end, it’s all about the essential human need to hold hope in your hands and having the willingness to sacrifice your own happiness to realize the dream of giving children a better life.”

An estimated 100,000 Chinese people live in the Canal Street area of Manhattan, the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Chang has spent the past 19 years capturing what goes on behind Chinatown’s façade.

Using a Leica M6 and MP, Chang creates visually strong, symbolic images that depict living conditions of illegal immigrant workers. Chang photographed in color and in black-and-white to further emphasize the exchange between visible and invisible worlds.

-Leica Internet Team

For more photos from Chien-Chi Chang, please visit his portfolio on Magnum Photos.