Photos depict 'Chinese Brady Brunch' living the American dream
Updated: 2013-05-13 16:16
By Kelly Chung Dawson (China Daily)
Sunglasses, by Michael Jang. [Photo/China Daily]
A group of photographs taken by professional photographer Michael Jang in the 1970s, are meeting the public for the first time.
Titled The Jangs, the negatives for those photos sat in boxes as Jang went on to make a name in the photography fraternity, working with notable names such as Ronald Reagan and Jimi Hendrix.
The pictures were taken in the summer of 1973, when Jang was still a college student in San Francisco. It was part of his classroom assignments, and his Chinese-American family quickly became his favorite subject.
He found inspiration in the intimacy and humor of their ordinary lives, as they set off fireworks on July 4, played with pets and simply sat around their suburban home.
This month the images that he began creating 40 years ago are finally being recognized at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco.
"Someone saw these photos and asked me, 'Is your family nuts?'" Jang jokes in an interview with China Daily.
"And the answer is 'Yes', but in all fairness if someone else had come into our family and photographed us, it would have been a completely different tone. It was my vision and experience of that reality, and this is definitely one of those exhibitions that'll make you smile and even laugh. I mean, there's a shag rug in the bathroom, for god's sake."
Jang's grandparents arrived in the US more than 100 years ago, and subsequent generations have made a living as merchants in the dry goods business. His family has reacted to the new exhibition with "overwhelming" enjoyment and nostalgia, he says.
Stephen Wirtz, owner of the gallery, says although the humor of the work is its most obvious attribute, the subject matter is equally important in terms of introducing audiences to an under-exposed segment of American history.
"What Michael was photographing was a part of America that most people miss today," he says.
"This was a Chinese-American family that lived the American dream in the 1970s, and I think it's important that audiences can see them as people who don't feel like strangers.
"More than just humor, underneath is a far more important issue - the portrayal of Chinese-Americans as just another group of Americans living out their lives in this country."