Creating the Asian Pacific American Family Album


By Eddie Wong

Every time I returned to my mother’s house in Los Angeles I would invariably spend some time thumbing through the family photo album. There were few photographs of my parents as young adults; they were poor and photographs were only taken for big occasions such as weddings. As the years roll by, my parents recorded the maturation of their four children, proudly dressing us up in suits and dresses to show the relatives in China how lower middle-class we had become in Hollywood, USA.

Towards the back of the album, the complexion of the family changes as we have Finnish Americans, German Americans, African Americans, and multiple Asian hybrids (Japanese, Chinese, Korean) popping up among the grandchildren, nieces and nephews. What an amazing treasure trove of memories!

The pleasure and opportunity for self-reflection that comes from gathering photographs from our everyday lives led me to pitch “A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America” to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center as an online photo/video exhibit. They accepted the proposal and I am now volunteering my time as the guest curator of the exhibit, which intends to capture the diversity of Asian Pacific American lives through the lens of a single day’s activities. That day is Saturday, May 10, 2014, which falls on the 145th Anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. Although Chinese workers built half the railroad, none were featured in the official photograph that marked the driving in of the golden spike. Today, Asian Pacific Americans are visible in every strata and region of the U.S. and scattered throughout the world.

Asian Pacific America is not unified by a common culture and our interactions are limited to joint political action such as around immigration reform and/or consciously applied in pan-Asian artistic efforts. I hope “A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America” provides an opportunity to share the intimate moments of our personal and communal lives to forge a deeper sense of community.

We are honored to have amazing photographers and artists from every region of the U.S. participating in the project. To see some sample works by Pete Pin, Carina del Rosario, Lizzie Chen, Junru Huang, Wing Huie and others, go to

The Smithsonian APAC is partnering with Flickr for this project. Although registration for the Smithsonian Flickr group has ended, you can still upload up to five photos and/or a video up to 3 minutes long to your Flickr account and submit it for inclusion in the exhibition by tagging each photo/video with #LifeAPA. Be sure to take the photo/videos on Saturday, May 10, 2014 and upload it no later than May 14. We will also accept Instagram photos with #LifeAPA. We plan to curate the exhibit starting with 100 photos by May 26, 2014 and roll out spin-off exhibits through the rest of 2014. If you have any questions about the project, write to me at eddieoak (AT) att (DOT) net

I hope you’ll join us in creating a new Asian Pacific American family album.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eddie Wong is a writer/photographer/filmmaker. He was one of the founders of Visual Communications, the nation’s first Asian American media production company, and the former Executive Director of NAATA/Center for Asian American Media.

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