Corky Lee on My Mind: Cindy Trinh
Portrait of Sarinya Srisakul, first Asian American female firefighter in New York (2020)
"I met Sarinya in January 2020 at a forum event with WNET that invited different activists and organizations to talk about racism and discrimination issues in New York," says Trinh. "We connected immediately and discussed wanting to do a project together highlighting AAPI women and non-binary people working in non-stereotypical jobs and roles. I started photographing for the project up until the pandemic and we had to pause the project. I managed to snap this portrait of Sarinya before the shutdown. We hope to start up the project again soon. Our goal is to create a photo book for AAPI kids to inspire them to pursue careers in other fields besides the traditional jobs that have defined us as the 'model minority' stereotype."
How do you know Corky?
"When I first started documenting the streets of New York, whether it was activism and protests, or my series on Chinatowns, I looked for role models and influences I could learn from, and found Corky’s work immediately. There aren’t many other Asian American activist photographers out there and Corky’s work is really well known.
"When I first met him years ago, the first thing he said to me was an immediate critique of my work. He basically ripped my work apart! But as many Asian Americans know about our culture, the more they criticize the more they show their love. I know that Corky saw potential in me. He connected me with a gallery in Chinatown that hosted my first solo gallery exhibition in 2019, showcasing my photo series about Chinatowns around the world. That exhibition wouldn’t have been possible without him.
"The day of my setup, he walked in with a cane because he had a hip injury and I told him he didn’t need to stay to help, but he insisted on being there to help me regardless. That was the kind of guy he was, he went above and beyond for people.
"Over the years we talked a lot about photography — the power it has to bring about change and the influence we have as storytellers to impact our communities. He often saw his camera as a weapon against injustice, which is how I view my camera and my work as well. He will forever be a voice in my head that tells me 'too much white space!' and 'don’t crop so much!' whenever I take photos. This world has suffered a tremendous loss but he will live on through the people that he has touched. Thank you Corky for inspiring us to take action and stand up for what’s right. Rest in power, Corky Lee."
Cindy Trinh is a photographer, visual journalist, organizer and activist who is passionate about social justice and human rights. Cindy has been published and featured by popular media, including Paper Magazine, The Hill, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Daily News, .Mic, Hyperallergic, The Culture Trip, and more. They have exhibited at numerous museums, galleries and art spaces, including the Museum of the City of New York, Museum of Chinese in America, New York Arts Center, Canal Street Market, Rush Arts Gallery, Equity Gallery, and The Knockdown Center. Cindy is the creator of Activist NYC, a documentary photo project about activism and social justice movements in New York City.