Why is every picture of Chinatown on Google Images a picture of grand gates that shout “here you are in a foreign wonderland,” of lanterns in a hundred shades of red, of cluttered store signs in Chinese, of a thousand shoppers and wanderers doing everything but never something? Where are the lovers, the priests, the souls of the cities? Isn’t a place more than the sum of its stores? Isn’t there something villainous about looking at a place but never seeing the people who live there?
Since the nineteenth century, “Chinatown” has been an imaginary place where people have gone to affirm that “the America outside” is real. But “Chinatown” is also a real place where people dream their dreams and wake up too late for school and swing on the swing sets and fall asleep at Sunday school and sing Beyoncé songs so loud the neighbors move down the block. Chinatown, U.S.A., is everywhere if you look close enough.
All photographs taken in New York.
Alex Zhang is a photographer from Arkansas currently living in the internet: http://www.alexanderzhang.com/.