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Photograph by Bud Glick
Image Title: Mr. and Mrs. Chow, Baldwin, NY, 1981
Paper Dimensions (H x W): 17 x 22 inches
Image Dimensions (H x W): 14 x 21 inches
Medium: Digital Inkjet Print
Year Created: 1981 (printed 2020)
Signed on verso
This is a photograph that I had originally passed over when we were selecting work for my exhibition at the Museum of Chinese in America in 2018-2019. When I shared this photo with my colleague Yuet-fung Ho, she reminded me of their story. Yuet-fung and I went to the Chow's home to interview and photograph them 37 years ago. Memories had faded, but Yuet-fung remembered them vividly:
"Mr. Chow was a very lively, articulate man. He was an old hand laundry worker, and really hated his work because he was once an aspiring young man who had a good education as a "Gum San Siu" (???). The term refers to young men who grew up in China supported by sojourning elders' hard-earned money sent from America. Mr. Chow grew up in privilege with no idea of the rough work and discrimination that his father had faced. He was very willing to follow the footsteps of his father, to go to "Gum San," or Golden Mountain, as America is sometimes called in Cantonese.
However, when he found out that his father had arranged for him to make a living washing 'stinking socks', he was angry and in despair. He felt that his whole life was ruined. This kind of feeling was very common in the Gum San Siu who came to join their laundry worker fathers.
He was also bitter about his experience in this country because he left his wife in China and didn't see her for 30-something years. Eventually he was able to apply for his wife to come meet him in America. When they finally met, they didn't recognize each other. It was a bitter life, but he did come to terms with it. For them, every day together was such a precious thing."
As Yuet-fung finished telling their story, she was struck by something Mr.Chow told her: the worst thing that could happen to him was if he outlived his wife. He was devoted and would not want to live without her.
From that moment, I couldn't get their story out of my thoughts. I kept thinking about the Chows, their long separation and Mr. Chow's lifetime of work that he hated. Their personal story is emblematic of the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act and its consequences in the lives of countless Chinese Americans.
For me, the photograph expresses Mr. and Mrs. Chow's triumph over the injustice of Exclusion. Mrs. Chow is steadfast and present, anchored to the table, looking directly at the camera. Her body language says, "I am here." The weight and gentleness of Mr. Chow's hand, his embrace, and his fixed gaze upon her hold her to him. They are inseparable. They become one.
I've been a photographer for over 35 years. I love photographing people and feel comfortable in any environment.
Past and current clients include: Inner-City Scholarship Fund, United Hospital Fund, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, NYU Medical Center, NYU, Pace University, Fordham University, NJIT, New York YMCA, Gannett, Stein Communications, Pfizer, AT&T, Syms Clothing, Fortis, Smithsonian Magazine, People Magazine, hgDesign, Arnold Saks Associates, DeSantis Breindel, Suka Creative.
I received a BA from the University of Wisconsin and an MFA in Photography from Brooklyn College. I have taught as an adjunct professor in the art departments of Brooklyn College, Queens College, C. W. Post and William Paterson University.
Donated By Bud Glick