The Evasive Bodies of May’s Photo Studio: Images from Chinatown

Date Range
Thu November 30th 2017, 4:15 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Bill Lane Center for the American West, American Studies Program
Fisher Conference Center
Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center
326 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA

Ample parking space is available nearby and is free of charge after 4pm.
Admission Information

Registration at capacity. Walk-ins will likely be accommodated. 

The Evasive Bodies of May’s Photo Studio: Images from Chinatown


Note: A recap of the event with complete video is now available on our website.


Join us for a lecture presented by Stanford Professor Marci Kwon (Art & Art History) as part of the Bill Lane Center for the American West’s ArtsWest series.

Program Description

This lecture will explore the remarkable body of photographs produced by May’s Photo Studio, one of the most prominent Chinese-run photography studios in San Francisco’s Chinatown. From its opening in 1923 until the mid-1960s, wife-and-husband Isabella May Lee and Leo Chan Lee documented weddings, special events, Cantonese opera productions, and even produced erotic photographs for Chinese immigrants during the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The resulting archive, currently housed in Stanford Special Collections, offers an unprecedented snapshot of daily life in San Francisco Chinatown from the perspective of its inhabitants, akin to James Van Der Zee’s famed photographs of Harlem.

Following the lecture, there will be a reception and viewing of a pop-up exhibition: "Lost Opera," curated by Stanford Art History PhD Candidate Yinshi Lerman-Tan, featuring a selection of images from Stanford’s Special Collections archive. 


Speaker’s Biography

Color headshot of Marci Kwon

Marci Kwon specializes in the art and culture of the United States. Her research and teaching interests include the intersection of fine art and vernacular practice, theories of modernism, cultural exchange between Asia and the Americas, "folk" and "self-taught" art, and issues of race and objecthood. Kwon is the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania’s 2016 Zuckerman Prize, awarded to the best dissertation in American art/culture and history, and her research has been supported by grants from the ACLS/Luce Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Mellon Foundation, and the Hellman Fellows Fund. She has also held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and is currently a fellow at Yale’s Center for the Study of Material & Visual Cultures of Religion. Kwon teaches courses on Asian-American Art, 1850- Present and Migration and Diaspora in American Artin Stanford’s Art & Art History Department.


Register to attend the event


Image courtesy of Stanford University Special Collections 

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