‘PHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY’ (2024) Essential viewing in this moment.

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PHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY

Chinese American photographer Corky Lee focused entirely on his community, the Asian population. Their contributions have been notoriously erased from US history. An accidental activist since picking up his first camera, Lee’s instincts guided him to protect and encourage fellow Asian Americans in NYC to stand up for themselves. He was on the front lines at every political rally and every march. “I take pictures that I think matter.”

POLICE BRUTALITY PROTEST 1975 (Credit_ Corky Lee)Director Jennifer Takaki includes sweet animation sporadically playing under Corky’s narration. The film mixes personal footage and stills from Corky, the camera always in hand on the streets of Chinatown, old news interviews, and scenes of his relentless kindness towards the younger generation of aspiring photographers.

HATE IS A VIRUS 2020 (Credit_ Corky Lee).JPG - www.dropbox.comPHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY comes at a time in American history when Asian hate crime continues its uptick. Logging the cyclical violence and ignorance of the general population is vital to understanding the importance of the film.

Corky Lee

After heading out to the scene of a young Asian woman’s attack in 2021, Corky contracted COVID-19, leading to his shocking passing. The outpouring of support from Chinatown’s locals to national news broadcasters said it all. Corky Lee changed the landscape for his community, single-handedly creating Asian American history pages with each photograph and story. PHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY is a lesson in resilience and passion.

PHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY will be released theatrically in New York (DCTV’s Firehouse Cinema) on April 19 and in Los Angeles (Laemmle Glendale) on April 26 with a regional expansion to follow.


Director: Jennifer Takaki

Executive Producers:  George and Hillary Hirose, Lily M. Fan

Producers: Jennifer Takaki, Linda Lew Woo

Co-Producers: David Koh, Nicole DiMiceli

Editor: Linda Hattendorf

For 50 years, Chinese American photographer Corky Lee documented the celebrations, struggles, and daily lives of Asian American Pacific Islanders with epic focus. Determined to push mainstream media to include AAPI culture in the visual record of American history, Lee produced an astonishing archive of nearly a million compelling photographs. His work takes on new urgency with the alarming rise in anti-Asian attacks during the Covid pandemic. Jennifer Takaki’s intimate portrait reveals the triumphs and tragedies of the man behind the lens.

Corky Lee was born in 1947 in New York to Chinese immigrants who owned a laundry in Queens. He majored in history at Queens College and became a community organizer in Manhattan’s Chinatown in the 1970s. Over the next five decades he photographed countless protests and cultural events in the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Lee’s photographs documented the birth and growth of the Asian American movement for social justice and he became known as “The Undisputed, Unofficial, Asian American Photographer Laureate.”   His death in 2021 at the age of 73 due to Covid was mourned in the press worldwide.

Filmmaker Jennifer Takaki  is a fourth generation Japanese American from Colorado. She began her career in journalism at a Denver TV station and later moved to Hong Kong to work with Encore International. In Hong Kong she produced English-based news programming broadcast in China, India, and the Middle East via Rupert Murdoch’s STAR-TV.  In New York, she produced and directed “Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story” which premiered at DOC NYC and was supported by the Ford Foundation and The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). She was awarded the prestigious Better Angels Lavine Fellowship in 2023.

Running Time: 87 minutes / Language: English / Not Rated / Documentary Feature (USA)

OFFICIAL SELECTION: DOC NYC, CAAMFest, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) and many more.


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Liz’s Review: ‘HOMME LESS’ is worth far more than 1000 words.

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From his dapper appearance and his suave sensibilities, you’d never guess that Mark Reay is homeless in NYC. Using a YMCA locker room as his bathroom and personal storage system, Mark is able to blend seamlessly into the upper echelon of New York’s fashion and film business. As a former model, he hustles the streets of Manhattan as a photographer and smooth talker. Genuinely talented and extremely good looking, Mark’s adaptability to his circumstances is astounding and certainly commendable. He lives in secret on a friend’s rooftop, enduring the changing weather and fearing, each night, that he may be found out and forced to find somewhere else to survive the nights. He lives off his extraordinary photography skills, acting residuals, and his uncanny ability to cold approach beautiful women, for both personal and professional rewards.

Mark Reay BY GREG SCAFFIDI

Mark Reay BY GREG SCAFFIDI

HOMME LESS follows Mark’s ventures as he narrowly eludes the total collapse of the very existence he has built for himself. His emotional highs and lows drive the heart of this doc. As New Yorkers, we most definitely have a built up image of what it  means to look homeless. It’s the man in the subway station that wreaks of urine, is dirty, and oftentimes muttering to himself, or yelling incoherently on a street corner. Mark is the penultimate opposite of these images. Clean cut, eloquent, genuine, resourceful. You route for him at each turn as we tag along on his day to day routine, using every networking trick known to man. I would hang out with Mark in a heartbeat. He is optimistic, as much as any one man can be facing his current situation. I admire the hell out of him.

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Director, Thomas Wirthensohn, has been friends with Mark for 20 years, since their modeling days back in Europe. When the two reconnected over drinks, Thomas had no idea that Mark was homeless. The two decided to take a new journey together in making this fascinating documentary. Wirthensohn is very careful to stay at arm’s length, which must have been extra difficult already being so emotionally invested in his subject. One of the toughest things you hear from documentary filmmakers is the challenge they face in trying to stay objective. There are quite a few moments in the film that directly address this issue and I commend Wirthensohn for his efforts.

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HOMME LESS is a beautifully shot portrait of one man’s journey to not only survive, but thrive, in this big city. As someone who has lived here on and off since college, I can only imagine having to do what Mark does on the daily. Living paycheck to paycheck takes on a whole new meaning in this film. I highly recommend you catch this documentary this weekend. It will rattle around in your brain and, if you happen to live in NYC, make you wonder if you’ll run into Mark any day soon. It would be my pleasure to buy him dinner and a drink… and then book him for new headshots.

HOMME LESS Trailer from Thomas Wirthensohn on Vimeo.

Synopsis: HOMME LESS is about the underbelly of the American Dream, the hidden backyard of our society. Mark’s life stands as a metaphor for the struggle of the vanishing middle class in America. But it’s also a film about the relationship between New York City and one of its residents. New York is not simply a beautiful backdrop for this story. She’s the antagonist that dictates the direction Mark’s life is going in. The joy and pain, the love and hate, the success and denial New York is teasing him with, the hardship he is going through in order to stay in her grace and the inventiveness he comes up with to be with her are all unique.

HOMME LESS captures a raw and unfiltered moment in time, our time, and raises the question of how far are we from losing everything, even our homes? How often do we have to pretend that everything is fine in order to keep up the facade of being a well-off member of society? And how far do we go to take the financial pressure off our shoulders to live a more carefree life, a life we aspire to live?

What went wrong in Mark’s life? How is he able to keep up his facade of success and fool everyone?  What keeps him from going under? What motivates him to put up with this rather unthinkable situation?  What were and are his hopes and desires in life?

Mark stands lost and alone in the midst of eight million dreams, balanced between the glamorous surfaces of this vibrant and inspiring city and its far from glamorous hidden backyard. He is the HOMME LESS

Opening at the IFC Center on August 7th