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Asian Archives First Exhibition to Uplift US-based AAPI Artists and Stories

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Asian Archives, a new US-based group sharing the stories and raising the voices of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) artists in the US, is beginning their mission with the first open call exhibition that will be held at Brooklyn Film Camera in New York City in the late fall.

Sissi Lu, Jonathan Bach, and William Oh are the three founders behind the creation of the initiative, which was formed around the time but also in response to the rise of violence towards AAPI community members. The violence was especially directed towards elders in the US and had exploded after the Covid-19 pandemic began. They hope to uplift the AAPI communities that have been facing these hate attitudes and crimes. (Source: Lomography article on Asian Archives, quoted/linked with permission)

“Asian Archives’ mission is a simple one: tell our stories and tell them more often. Become our own home for our narratives and memories. By doing so, we hope to replace existing AAPI stereotypes and tropes with entirely new narratives, bursting with the diverse experiences and views of our people.” (Source: Lomography)

portrait of elder woman

Image by Sissi Lu, used with permission.

Lomography published a brilliant and thorough interview piece in their magazine about Asian Archives and the founders. This information above is quoted and linked with permission. Head over to the Lomography magazine link here to read their article which includes more details on the backgrounds of the founders and the beginnings of Asian Archives.

They were kind enough to connect me with William, Jonathan, and Sissi and I asked a few additional questions about the exhibition and the response so far.

One of the criteria to submit to the open call is the photographs must have been taken on film. I asked about the background behind this decision:

Asian Archives: This is a great question and it was something we struggled with for a bit at the start. A lot of our own craft is focused on film, but there are some amazing photographers out there that do not shoot with this medium and we didn’t want to close ourselves off at first.

However, we ultimately decided to go the film-only route for a couple reasons:

First, we’re part of a generation that had all our childhood photos on film. We grew up during that weird technological shift where cell phones and laptops were not really a part of our daily lives until all of a sudden they were. I personally remember having one shared desktop PC in the house that was terribly slow and massive. A film only exhibition feels right because it calls back to that nostalgic time. The process of film will forever be its own time capsule, even if the stock, camera, and photos are new.

Second, the film community has really supported us the last couple years, so this was a sort of way to connect to that energy and give back. We do hope to expand our mediums and work with all sorts of artists and storytellers in the near future. We’re just getting started.

woman walking on beach on sunny day

Image by William Oh, used with permission.

35MMC: Where will the exhibition be held?

Asian Archives: Our first exhibition will be with Brooklyn Film Camera! They’re in the process of opening up a new retail location which has a gallery space in the front. We’re so excited to be their first exhibition and they’ve been tremendously supportive of our cause. We’re also happy to be working with a team that is already involved in the film community here in New York City.

35MMC: It’s been a couple weeks since the Lomography article and little over a month since launching the Instagram account, can you describe what the response has been like so far?

Asian Archives: The best way to describe it is the feeling you get when you’ve climbed up to a high place, and though you’re tired from having woken up early, you feel alive and elated as you get to watch the first streaks of sunlight kaleidoscope across the landscape. It’s been overwhelmingly supportive. We want to do more and are coming out with a few new initiatives to lift the stories of our communities.

Lomography has been a strong supporter of the initiative and is one of the sponsors of the exhibition.

Asian Archives: Just want to shout out Lomography for being an amazing partner. They’re so responsive and fast. I think the team over there is a large reason for film being so alive and popular today.

To stay up to date with Asian Archives and the exhibition, you can see what they are up to at the moment on Instagram, but they also have a website coming soon. While the website is in development at the time of writing, you can sign up for their newsletter there for email updates.

Header image was taken by Jonathan Bach.

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