There is one thing we do not see in a compelling 1982 self-portrait by Dean Wong: his face. Taken in Seattle’s Chinatown, the photograph zeroes in on the back of a metal helmet, polished to a mirrorlike finish. In it is reflected a crowd of neighborhood residents — a metaphor for the people and hometown community that have shaped and fascinated Mr. Wong.
迪恩·王(Dean Wong,音)1982年的一张精彩照片虽然是自拍,但却看不到他的面孔。照片拍摄于西雅图华埠,片中他戴着光可鉴人的金属头盔,镜头聚焦在头盔后面反射出的一群住在附近的居民。这是一种隐喻:正是这些人与这个故乡的社区塑造了王先生,他们令他着迷。
The image appears in Mr. Wong’s new book, “Seeing the Light: Four Decades in Chinatown” (Chin Music Press), which centers on Seattle but includes images from other cities, including San Francisco, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia. Juxtaposing photographs with short, anecdotal essays, the book serves as a powerful corrective to decades of one-dimensional and blinkered reporting on neighborhoods generally represented in the cultural mainstream as exotic, insular or irrelevant, as places to order a quick meal or marvel at the colorful rituals of the Chinese New Year.The photos remind us that despite the stubborn, stereotypical view of Chinatowns as places of vibrant exoticism, they continue to serve an important social function as gateways and homes to new immigrants, as guardians of art, history and heritage, and as a refuge from discrimination. Mr. Wong does so not by creating a visual and verbal gloss, but rather by meticulously documenting the rituals of everyday life and focusing on personal stories, ordinary and extraordinary, of people largely ignored in mainstream media.
这张照片收录在王先生的新书《看见光明:华埠40年》(Seeing the Light: Four Decades in Chinatown,Chin Music出版社)中。它聚焦西雅图,不过也收入了旧金山、纽约和不列颠哥伦比亚省温哥华的照片。照片配有简短的轶事散文。几十年来,主流文化对华人社区的描述充满偏见,极为单一,仿佛它只是充满异国情调、与外界隔绝而又无关紧要,人们只在这里订快餐,或是在春节时对这里丰富多彩的各种仪式表示一下惊叹,这本书堪称一种有力的反拨。尽管外界对华埠有着顽固的刻板印象,认为它只是一个充满活力与异域风情的地方,这些照片提醒我们,华埠还承担着重要的社会功能,它是新移民的门户与家园;是艺术、历史与传统的守护者;亦是华裔免于歧视的庇护所。为了做到这一点,王先生不是靠精美的图文,而是细致入微地记录日常生活中的仪式,关注那些被主流媒体忽略的人们平凡或不平凡的私人故事。
Mr. Wong started photographing Seattle’s Chinese-American community in the early 1970s, while working for the International District Emergency Center, a grassroots neighborhood services organization. Later, as a photojournalist for the International Examiner, a Seattle-based Asian-American newspaper, he continued to focus on Chinatown. “I photographed meetings, did portraits, went to community celebrations, and roamed the streets of Chinatown looking for anything that caught my eye,” he later recalled.
从20世纪70年代初,王先生就开始拍摄西雅图的华人社区,当时他在草根社区服务组织“国际区急救中心”(International District Emergency Center)工作。后来,他成了西雅图亚裔美国人报纸《国际审查员》(The International Examiner)的摄影记者,开始持续关注华埠。“我拍摄聚会、人像,参加社区庆典,在华埠街头漫步,寻找能抓住我眼球的东西,”他回忆道。
Among the many contributions of “Seeing the Light” is its eloquent documentation of complex and evolving communities, neighborhoods that exist not for tourists, but as cultural, political, and historic sanctuaries for the Asian-American community.
《看见光明》这本书的贡献之一是它为这个复杂而不断进化的社区提供了一份雄辩的记录,这个社区不是为了游客而存在的,而是亚裔美国群体的文化、政治与历史庇护所。
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“For me, Chinatown has been a kind of compass by which to find where I belong in this country,” the writer Bonnie Tsui observed in her groundbreaking book, “American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods.” “I haven’t always felt at ease in my identity as a Chinese-American, and as a young adult it was comforting to know that there was a place I could go in my city where everyone else looked like me.”If “Seeing the Light” affirms the role of Chinese-American communities in empowering a people, their history has been fraught, complicated by racism, xenophobia and, more recently, the threats of urban renewal and gentrification. In the mid-19th century, Chinese migration to the United States began when natural catastrophes across China inspired some of its more intrepid citizens to go to Gum Shan, “Gold Mountain,” the Chinese nickname for California, and the western regions of North America, stoked by news of gold-rich land and economic opportunity.
“对于我来说,华埠就像是一个指南针,它总能让我在这个国家找到归属,”崔崇尧(Bonnie Tsui)女士著有开拓性意义的《美国华埠:五个社区中人的历史》(American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods)一书,她说,“对于华裔美国人这个身份,我并不是时时刻刻都感到轻松。作为年轻人,知道城市里有个地方可去,在那里所有人长得都与我相像,这让我觉得安慰。”《看见光明》肯定了华裔美国社区为华裔赋权的作用,他们的历史充满忧患,因种族主义和排外主义而变得更加复杂,最近又受到城区改造与中产化的威胁。华裔移民潮始于19世纪中期,当时中国各地遭受天灾,许多勇敢的中国人开始来到美国的“金山”,这是他们对加利福尼亚,以及北美西部地区的称呼,因为有消息说这里是布满黄金与商机之地。
But as the economy weakened in the United States, the Chinese labor force came to be viewed by white Californians as a threat. Racism and repressive legislation drove Chinese-Americans to self-segregate and form a sanctuary neighborhood in San Francisco: a so-called Chinatown, where close-knit families and benevolent associations sustained a spurned minority. As new businesses thrived within this community, however, the city’s white residents continued to view Chinese-Americans as a danger to the region’s fragile economy. It was not until the mid-20th century that Chinese-Americans began to enter the nation’s mainstream, with Chinatowns in cities as diverse as New York, Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston flourishing. But in recent years, gentrification has encroached on some communities, outpricing many Asian-Americans from neighborhoods that had served as cultural havens for decades. At its peak, for example, Chinatown in the District of Columbia was once home to about 3,000 Chinese-Americans. That number has dwindled to 300.
但是当美国经济开始衰落之时,中国劳工却开始被加利福尼亚白人视为威胁。种族主义与强硬的立法迫使亚裔美国人自我隔离,在旧金山建立了避难所式的社区,就是所谓华埠。在这里,亲族和慈善机构支持着这个受到拒绝的少数族群。然而,随着新经济在这个社区发展起来,本市的白人继续将华裔美国人视为对当地脆弱经济的威胁。直到20世纪中期,华裔美国人才开始进入这个国家的主流,纽约、西雅图、华盛顿、洛杉矶与波士顿的华埠也都繁荣昌盛起来。但是近年来,城市中产化侵蚀了若干社区,几十年来,这里曾是文化的避风港,如今许多亚裔美国人却负担不起在这里的居住费用。比如,哥伦比亚特区的华埠在其巅峰时期曾有3000名华裔美国人居住,如今减少到300人。
In light of this history, Mr. Wong’s vignettes and photographs — including images of community activism, local businesses and organizations, political leaders, children playing, celebratory rituals and, on a more personal level, reminiscences about his family and student life — speak to the cultural nuances, complexity and necessity of Chinatown, well beyond the touristic fascination with swirling paper dragons, countless restaurants and trinket shops. In a section titled “People,” for example, Mr. Wong photographed and wrote about a range of Chinatown residents, some of them artists in their own right: the Japanese-American photographer Henry Takayoshi, for example, a reminder not only of Chinatown’s cultural diversity but also of the non-Chinese Asian-Americans who have gravitated to its precincts; Ryan Rhinehart, a gay Korean-born drag queen, who died of AIDS in the mid-1990s; Sun Yang, a Seattle artist whose early paintings were of landscapes near his hometown, Anhui, in central east China; Eun-Gyong Lee, legally blind since birth, who daily navigated the bustling metropolis of Seattle; and the sculptor Meng Huang, who transformed the detritus of daily life — the things people had literally thrown away — into dynamic assemblages.
王先生的短文与照片中包括了社区行动、本地商业与组织、政治领袖、玩耍的儿童、庆祝典礼以及他个人层面的关于家庭与学生时代的回忆,正因为有了华人的这段历史,他的照片才更生动地说明了华埠不仅仅是充斥了舞龙、饭馆与廉价商品店的旅游景点,而是充满文化上的细微、复杂与必要性。譬如说,在“人们”这一章里,王先生拍摄并描写了一系列华埠居民,其中包括不少自成一格的艺术家:日裔美国摄影师Henry Takayoshi不仅体现出华埠文化的多样性,也体现出非华裔亚裔美国人如何被吸引到这里;还有90年代中期死于艾滋病的韩裔同性恋易装皇后瑞恩·莱因哈特(Ryan Rhinehart);西雅图艺术家孙杨(Sun Yang,音)的早期作品描绘了自己的家乡,中国中部省份安徽;先天失明的李恩京(Eun-Gyong Lee,音)每天都要走过人群熙攘的西雅图大都市;雕刻家黄猛则把日常生活中人们丢弃的物品装配起来变为艺术品。
The overall effect of “Seeing the Light” is to illuminate the cultural uniqueness and social consequence of Chinatown, both historically and in recent years.
《看见光明》的整体效果是为了解释华埠的文化独特性和社会重要性,无论是过去与现在。
“What I take away from Chinatown when I leave … is a sharpened sense of why Chinatown still matters,” Ms. Tsui observed in words relevant to Mr. Wong’s important book, adding: “After a century and a half of Chinese immigration, Chinatown can still be the first step for new immigrants into America, and for American-born Chinese into their Chinese heritage. Their personal stories are narrative epics; by reading them, we find out what Chinatown means to its people at present. And by looking behind, we also get a sense of what may lie ahead, beyond its borders.”
“当我离开华埠时……我深刻地理解了华埠为什么仍然重要,”崔女士在评论王先生这本重要作品时说道;她又补充:“经过一个半世纪的华人移民史之后,华埠仍然可以成为新移民来到美国的第一个落脚点,也可以成为在美国出生的华裔了解华人传统的第一步。这里的居民们的故事都如同叙事史诗,读着它们,我们便能了解如今华埠对他们的意义。回顾过去,我们也能感受到华埠在未来如何跨越藩篱。”