Virtual photography exhibit celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 22, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Photographer Bonita Lei collaborates with local pols for virtual photography exhibit to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
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In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, photojournalist Bonita Lei created a virtual photography exhibition documenting Asian-Americans’ lives in New York City.

With the collaboration of State Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Peter Abbate and Councilmember Justin Brannan, “About Us: Celebrating Asian Month, Cherishing Our Community” was created.

Photos by Bonita Lei

Lei spent three decades documenting Asian-Americans’ lives in New York City and across the U.S. Her work captures jubilant moments of Asian-Americans celebrating their traditions.

Lei discussed the significance of the exhibition.

“ABOUT US is a kaleidoscope of our lives, as Asians, as Americans; and in flux,” she said. “ABOUT US is also an attempt to explicate a country, by an Asian, an American and a New Yorker. I see my photos as an ongoing graphic novel of New York; a novel always in process, always expanding.”

Lei, who has also been a writer and art curator for more than 30 years, was born in Hong Kong. She received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, an M.A. in art history from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in art history from New York University.

Her work also sheds light on the hardships that the community is facing, including seniors and newcomers.

Photos by Bonita Lei

“I’m a documentarist in spirit, engaging flexibly with style,” Lei said . “I freely borrow and adapt, from bauhaus to social realism to cell phone snapshots. In the end, though, it’s more about my encounters with the city’s amazing subject matter, polyglot, multifarious and disordered … New York itself. I’m basically a tourist, a visitor. Neither journalist nor artist.”

Elected officials were inspired by ABOUT US and Lei.

“The Asian-American community is flourishing in southern Brooklyn,” said Gournades. “It’s evidenced by the growing number of restaurants and small businesses along our commercial corridors and the cultural activity in our communities. It’s more important than ever to highlight the contribution that AAPI New Yorkers have made to our city. I want to thank Bonita Lei for documenting these precious moments. Our city and country are made stronger by the contributions of our immigrant neighbors.”

“Bonita has always been a remarkable community asset, especially for our Asian population in Brooklyn,” said Abbate. “Her dedication to helping many of our senior and immigrant families is clearly recognizable in these photos. I’m grateful to have this opportunity, to share what our Asian families have struggled with, established, and have achieved. I believe our community as a whole could benefit from their experiences, and celebrate the pride of Asian Heritage together.”

Photos by Bonita Lei

“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity for all Americans to recognize the immense contributions that this beautiful and diverse population has made to our nation,” said Brannan. “The virtual exhibition is a time to celebrate the diversity and strength of the growing AAPI communities. Photos capture the depth, breadth and dignity of the AAPI experience as they make indelible contributions to American society and culture and continue to demonstrate the importance and value of diversity and inclusion.”

Photos by Bonita Lei

To see the virtual exhibition, visit until June 15. It can also be seen on Gounardes’ and Brannan’s social media channels.

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