Acclaimed New York photographer Corky Lee, who passionately chronicled the Asian American experience through his lens, died Wednesday following a brief bout with Covid-19, his family said.
He was 73.
“He did what he loved and we loved him for it,” according to a family statement. “His passion was to rediscover, document and champion through his images the plight of all Americans but most especially that of Asian and Pacific Islanders.”
One of his most best-known shots was snapped at the site of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, where America was finally united, coast-to-coast via the transcontinental railroad a century and a half earlier.
Even though Chinese laborers did the bulk of the work, they were shut out of celebratory pictures at the time. Descendants of their workers finally had their chance to be photographed on that day, and Lee's eyes and index finger captured the moment of corrected history.
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., mourned Lee's passing, calling him a "walking museum."
"He worked relentlessly to ensure Chinese Americans’ contributions to history were appreciated & documented," she said. "There will be many moments when we will reach back to Corky’s work to help our community move forward."