Promontory Summit Photograph

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
(c) Corky Lee, all rights reserved
(c) Corky Lee, all rights reserved

I took this photograph in 2014 in Promontory Point, Utah, the site where the eastern and western lines of the first Transcontinental Railroad were joined in 1868. In junior high school, I had been elated to learn about the contributions of Chinese workers to this historic feat. So when I came across the photo taken to commemorate the event, I thought that maybe if I got a magnifying glass, I would be able to count how many Chinese workers were there. My sense of pride diminished when I realized they were not there—after using a second, larger magnifying glass. If the Chinese helped build the railroad, why were they not in the photo? It is this type of historical absence that has inspired my work to make more visible the experiences and accomplishments of Asian Americans. For this 2014 photograph, over two hundred Chinese, Japanese, Filipino Americans and Chinese nationals traveled thousands of miles to get to Promontory Point, Utah. Sixteen local APA organizations from Utah also joined the gathering. With this image, we said, “enough is enough.”  Together, we committed an “act of photographic justice” denied those 12,000 Chinese laborers 145 years ago.

Place(s): Promontory Point, Utah

– Corky Lee, Photographer

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant