Rare Photos Of New York's Chinatown In The 1980s Captured A Revolution

Chinese New Year, Bayard St., 1984┬ęBud GlickChinese New Year on Bayard St. in 1984.

Due to the relaxed immigration laws of the early 1980s, New York City’s Chinatown underwent a rapid demographic shift.

Bud Glick was a photographer tasked by the the New York Chinatown History Project (now the Museum of Chinese in America) with documenting this transition from an older, primarily male community to one of young, newly immigrated families.

But looking at the photos now, 30 years later and newly digitized, it’s clear that he captured much more than just a demographic shift in a small period in time.

With his photo series, Glick captured a revolution.

From 1981 to 1984 photographer Bud Glick worked on the New York Chinatown History Project.

Chinese New Year, Bayard St., 1984

The New York Chinatown History Project eventually came to be known as the Museum of Chinese in America. They currently have a number of Glick's photos in their archive.

Bachelor Apartment, Mr. Ng, Bayard St.

Glick was tasked with revealing in his photos a changing Chinatown, one undergoing a rapid demographic shift.

Bachelor Apartment, Mr. Ng, Bayard St.

The primarily older, male generation who lived there were being joined by a much younger one.

Bachelor Apartment, Bayard St., 1982

This younger generation consisted primarily of young families.

Photo: Bachelor Apartment, Bayard St., 1982

Newly emigrated from China, they were eager to cut out a place for themselves in New York.

Bachelor Apartment, Bayard St., 1982

The rush of immigration to Chinatown occurred primarily due to a relaxation of immigration laws.

Garment Factory, 1983

In order to get the photos, Glick first had to get familiar with the community that was his subject.

Tony, Catherine St., 1981

He took long walks around Chinatown, asking random strangers to take their portrait.

Mr. Soo, East Broadway, 1982

He wasn't successful at first. But, eventually, Glick was allowed and often even invited in to take portraits of his subjects in their own homes.

Mrs. Chiu in her apartment, 1981

One of the themes that emerged from his pictures was Chinatown's 'bachelor society.'

Produce distributor, Bayard St., 1982

Restrictive immigration laws created a culture of many single men living alone in Chinatown.

Grandfather with his grandson, Eldridge St., 1983

Only recently has Glick started revisiting his work from back then.

Garment Factory, 1983

Now over 30 years old, the work has been scanned and digitized. Glick is even creating large prints of his photo series.

Big Tall Chin, Sam Wah Laundry, Bronx, 1982

He told Business Insider that it is exciting for him to revisit work he has done so long ago.

Henry St., 1982

'I'm able to give new life to old work,' Glick said.

Columbus Park, 1983

Glick also said he has been using digital techniques that allow him to get additional detail out of the photos, and actually get closer to his original intention.

Senior citizens' center, Bayard St., 1982

The new digital methods include scanning the negatives through a device that can extract way more information than a traditional darkroom.

Mott St., 1982

Glick then runs them through Photoshop, but doesn't use any kind of photo manipulation. Instead, he uses the program to shift the shadows and lighting to what he originally saw.

Chinatown, 1982

According to Glick, these photos are much closer to what he had originally envisioned for the project.

Columbus Park, 1982

Time has also changed how Glick sees his project.

Columbus Park, 1983

He told us that some of the images have taken on a new importance now that he can reflect.

F Train, 1982

Though it was always intended to document a historic change in the demographic shift, it now looks much more like a time capsule.

PS 1 playground, 1982

'What seemed current and normal to me at the time, now feels like a record of a different era,' Glick explained.

Division St., 1982

Indeed, Glick called this early 1980s NYC Chinatown a unique time in history, both for the neighbourhood as well as immigration.

PS 1 playground, 1982

'With the passage of time, I see how my documentation of Chinatown life can both communicate what it felt like to live in Chinatown at that time and inform our current societal discussion of immigration,' he said.

Rebecca with her children in their kitchen, 1982

Through rediscovering the work and realising its new importance, Glick hopes his work takes on new life.

Chinese New Year, Mott St., 1984

'This work sat in boxes in my closet for years. I don't want it to disappear,' he said.

Chinese New Year, Mott St., 1984

Instead, Glick plans to turn the photos into an exhibit or book.

Funeral, 1982

'I think that exposure to the reality of other peoples' lives always challenges our preconceived notions and can open our minds to seeing the world from someone else's point of view,' Glick told us.

Catherine St., 1981

You can see some of Glick's work for yourself in person, as select photos are permanently on display in the Museum as part of the historic exhibit.

Wah Nan Co., 46 Mulberry St., 1982

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