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Jun 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Shifting Lives: Photographing the Immigrant Experience in Chinatown

With Lynne Sachs, Annie Ling and Alan Chin.

At this event, Annie Ling will present a slideshow of her photographs, with an emphasis on 81 Bowery,  a project that explores the domestic experiences of immigrants in NYC’s Chinatown. Filmmaker Lynne Sachs will screen her hybrid documentary Your Day is My Night followed by a joint conversation.

For years, Annie Ling has worked on getting beyond the streets into the residences of Chinese immigrants in an exclusive Chinatown community. This desire was sparked by a love for the people there and a concern for their stories left untold.  Ling had been documenting tenement buildings throughout Chinatown, New York, when she came upon 81 Bowery— a vestige of tenement flophouses inhabited today by Chinese immigrant laborers. 81 Bowery, one of the last standing lodging houses in New York City, has been home for more than a generation of immigrant laborers who work at construction sites and kitchens in Chinatown. Since the neighborhood has seen so much change, the resilience of these residents to preserve their way of life at the Bowery lodge really compelled her to look closely at what is being threatened.  “Shut-ins” throughout Chinatown have similar stories of sacrifice. Disadvantaged from poor health or poverty, this generation of retired immigrant workers complains little about their isolation or disability. Instead, they remain in humble gratitude when considering the improved quality of life they were able to attain for their family after emigrating from China to America.  Ling’s personal work in Chinatown is driven by a need to tell her own story and the stories of immigrants and individuals that revolve around the themes of memory, place and loss. These stories of fragmented families and bittersweet endings touch upon and intersect her own life and journey as a photographer.

Your Day is My Night

64 minutes | USA | 2013 | HD Video

Chinese, English and Spanish with English subtitles

In this hybrid documentary shot in New York, director Lynne Sachs utilizes the bed as both starting and focal point for inquiry into the personal and collective experiences of a household of immigrants living in a “shift-bed” apartment in Chinatown. Initially documented in Jacob Riis’ controversial photography of the late 19th century, a shift-bed is a bed that is shared or rented in increments by people who are neither in the same family nor in a relationship. Since the advent of tenement housing in the Lower East Side, working class people have shared beds, making such spaces a definable and fundamental part of immigrant life. Over a century later, the shift-bed remains a necessity for many, triggered by socio-economic barriers embedded within the urban experience.  In Sachs’ film, seven characters ranging in age from 30 to 78 play themselves through autobiographical monologues, verité conversations and theatrical movement pieces. As the bed transforms into a stage, the film reveals a collective history of Chinese immigrants in the United States. The intimate cinematography and sound design suggest dreams and memories of the performers, inviting the audience into a community often considered closed to non-Chinese speakers. Through it all, Your Day is My Night addresses issues around privacy, intimacy, belonging and the urban experience via the basic human need for a place to sleep.


Ling_Portrait_01Born in Taipei, Annie Ling is a Canadian artist and documentary photographer, currently based in New York City. Drawing from a nomadic upbringing, her work often explores the relationship between permanence and the ephemeral and addresses subject matters of a socio-environmental nature. Her love and pursuit of photography emerged out of an impulse and growing compulsion to express a singular vision. Previous to studying documentary photography at the International Center of Photography, Annie studied English Literature and Art. Her passion for storytelling and picture making is rooted in a love for discovering places, peoples, or situations in need of a voice or celebration. Annie is a contract photographer for the New York Times, and her photography has appeared in such publications as GEO Magazine (Germany), Courrier International (France), FADER Magazine, New York Magazine, PDN Photo Annual, American Photography, Magenta Flash Forward: Emerging Photographers, Monthly Photography (Korea), among others. Her work is exhibited and collected internationally. Most recently, her work has been featured in the Gwanju Biennale: Unnamed Design, curated by Ai WeiWei in Korea, Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism in Germany, NYPH Awards exhibition in Finland, Budapest Photo Festival in Hungary, Magenta Flash Forward in Canada, and throughout the USA in Maine, Boston, and New York City. Annie is currently a fellow of Reflexions Masterclass, a laboratory investigating the evolution of the language of visual representation and photography. She is also a recipient of a Director’s Fellowship from The International Center of Photography.



Lynne_Sachs_photo2013Lynne Sachs makes films, videos, installations and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Since 1994, her five essay films have taken her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel and Germany — sites affected by international war–where she tries to work in the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, Lynne searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with each and every new project.  Since 2006, she has collaborated with her partner Mark Street in a series of playful, mixed-media performance collaborations they call The XY Chromosome Project. In addition to her work with the moving image, Lynne co-edited the Millennium Film Journal issue on “Experiments in Documentary”. Supported by fellowships from the Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations and the New York State Council on the Arts, Lynne’s films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto’s Images Festival as well as a five-film survey at the Buenos Aires Film Festival.  The San Francisco Cinemathéque recently published a monograph with four original essays in conjunction with a full retrospective of Lynne’s work.  In 2012, Lynne began a series of live film performances of  “Your Day is My Night” which she then premiered in 2013 in the Documentary Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art. Lynne teaches experimental film and video at New York University and The New School and lives in Brooklyn.



Alan ChinAlan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Since 1996, he as worked in China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central Asia. Domestically, Alan followed the historic trail of the civil rights movement, documented the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and covered the 2008 presidential campaign. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek and The New York Times, editor and photographer at BagNews, and his work is in the collection of the Museum Of Modern Art.


Jun 8, 2013
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

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