The Photography of Corky Lee: Asian Americans in Photos



  • Demonstrate the value in photography as a mode of advocacy and activism through the camera lens of Corky Lee and his documentation of the lives of Asian Americans.
  • Explain how history is interpreted by examining Corky Lee’s work and showing how different perspectives can bring deeper understanding to the past.
  • Understand the role Corky Lee played in helping to establish an Asian American identity.


Corky Lee was a Chinese American photographer from New York City, dubbed by many as the “Undisputed Unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.” Not professionally trained in photography, Lee began taking photos of rallies and demonstrations in Chinatown, New York City in the 1970s after realizing there was a lack of historical documentation of Asian Americans. His photography, spanning decades, captured what otherwise would have been forgotten from American history. From the mundane everyday lives of Asian Americans to lively protests amidst the larger Asian American Movement, Lee was there to document the role of Asian Americans as part of the fabric of American society. Lee passed away from COVID in 2021, but his legacy and impact remains, sustained by his photography.


  1. In what ways does photography enable an individual to create their own kind of history?
  2. How do Lee’s photographs demonstrate the intertwining of Asian American history with American history?
  3. How did lee express the themes of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion through his photography?
  4. In what ways can we utilize photography as a means to advocate for causes?


  • Primary source documents
  • Readings
  • Vocabulary
  • Resources
  • Activities with formative
  • Assessments

Lesson plan created in partnership with 1882 Foundation