In 1981, the photographer Bud Glick began documenting Chinatown in Lower Manhattan during a pivotal time in its history, when waves of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China were arriving, supporting different cultures and linguistic backgrounds but sharing the dream of a new life in a new world.
Back then, Chinatown was a decidedly different neighborhood than it is today. Over the ensuing decades, it would transform from a tightknit and largely self-supporting community — home to a robust garment industry and fading bachelor society shaped by earlier immigration policies — into a bustling neighborhood centered on young people and families.
Mr. Glick’s Chinatown project began when he was commissioned by the Museum of Chinese in America — then known as the New York Chinatown History Project — to photograph local residents. Relocating from his native Wisconsin, he embarked on a three-year mission of representing the public and private lives of a community long misunderstood or stereotyped in the mainstream media and popular culture.
In retrospect, Mr. Glick did more than depict the street life, people and domestic scenes of a New York neighborhood. He also sensitively documented a community at the cusp of dynamic change. His project is now the subject of an exhibition, “Interior Lives: Photographs of Chinese Americans in the 1980s,” organized by the Museum of Chinese in America in conjunction with the Museum of the City of New York exhibition, “Interior Lives: Contemporary Photographs of Chinese New Yorkers.” Both shows are on view through March 24.
Intent on portraying Chinatown honestly and with complexity, Mr. Glick did so as an outsider respectful of a community he did not know from the inside. “I was a documentary photographer, with the responsibility of learning, understanding, making connections, gaining access and documenting what I saw, felt, and understood — communicating what was occurring around me — telling the story as I understood it,” Mr. Glick wrote in an email. “My role was to keep my eyes open, learn as much as I could, make connections, and follow wherever my connections took me.”