Photographer Edward Cheng: Walking with Lions ~ a Look Inside the Vibrant Lunar New Year Celebrations in Chinatown

 

 

 

Photographer Edward Cheng. Image courtesy of the artist and Think!Chinatown

The cultural non-profit, Think!Chinatown (T!C) is proud to present a captivating black-and-white film photography exhibition by Edward Cheng. With curatorial support from Sophia Ma, the solo show, titled “Walking with Lions and Other Chinatown New Year Traditions” offers an interior view of the vibrant Lunar New Year celebrations in Manhattan’s iconic Chinatown. The exhibition will run from January 17 to February 25, 2024, at Think!Chinatown’s Studio at 1 Pike St, 10002 NYC.

As a native of Manhattan’s Chinatown, Cheng builds unique connections and access to the groups that lead the rituals of the iconic neighborhood’s Lunar New Year celebrations. While Cheng constantly travels the world capturing festivals like Easter and Día de los Muertos, he has returned to his own neighborhood to capture over 20 years of Lunar New Year festivities. Embedded with the Norman Chin Southern Mantis martial arts, Cheng follows them through their annual preparations and lion dance procession route. The rigor, consistency, and repetition of his methodology allow his lens to capture his community with extraordinary depth.

Photographer Edward Cheng. Image courtesy of the artist and Think!Chinatown

With his 35mm and medium format cameras, Cheng documents the unique blend of NYC Chinatown-specific rituals mixed in with historic traditions, showcasing the cultural resiliency of a diasporic community building home in America. The exhibition highlights the dynamic crowds, the parades and processions, as well as the serene moments with monks and practitioners in temples, and glimpses at lion dance training. From the mesmerizing dragon and unicorn dancers to the intricacies of traditional costuming, and the radiant pageant winners, Cheng’s lens captures the incredible details that make the Lunar New Year a truly unique and culturally significant event.

The goal of “Walking with Lions” extends beyond the visual spectacle; it aims to educate a wider audience on the nuances of the diverse aspects of the New Year in Chinatown.  Ma states, “This exhibition serves as a cultural bridge, connecting the past and the present. By showcasing the timeless traditions of Lunar New Year, we hope to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Chinatown.”

As a trusted community documenter, Cheng has shown his work with Think!Chinatown on many occasions, and this is his first solo exhibition with the Chinatown-based arts non-profit. For his work on this project, Cheng was awarded the New York State Council on the Arts, Visual Arts grant.

“During the Lunar New Year season, our neighborhood gets a lot of attention from the exterior world. With this exhibition, we wanted to take the opportunity to tell the story of Chinatown’s traditions and rituals from an interior perspective. What better way than through Ed Cheng’s photographs,” says Yin Kong, Executive Director at Think!Chinatown.

The Exhibition Walking with Lions, and Other Chinatown New Year Traditions‘ by photographer Edward Cheng will be on view from January 17 to February 25, 2024 at Think!Chinatown Studio, 1 Pike Street, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on January 17th from 6-8pm, where guests will have the opportunity to meet the photographer and delve deeper into the stories behind these evocative images. An artist talk moderated by the executive director of Think!Chinatown, Yin Kong, will be on February 1, 6-8pm. Event details can be found at: www.thinkchinatown.org/walking-with-lions

Edward Cheng is a native New Yorker, a freelance computer programmer, and a seasoned globetrotting backpacker. Through photography, he works on long-term projects documenting Christian Holy Weeks and Easters around the world, Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, the Chinese-American experience, and Eldridge Street in the Lower Manhattan of New York City. Cheng is a teaching assistant and a fixture at the International Center of Photography; he regularly assists darkroom masters Steve Anchell, Brian Young, and Chuck Kelton. He drinks mezcal neat.

Sophia Ma (b. 1984, Guangzhou, China) is an independent curator and writer based in Brooklyn. Ma curated exhibitions at Chiquita Room, Think!Chinatown, FiveMyles, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery at St. John’s University, Walter’s at Walter Elwood Museum, SpringBreak Art Show, Hunter College 205 Hudson Gallery and 205 Project Space, and Rockwell Studios. She has written for multiple art publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, Art Papers, Hyperallergic, Art Spiel, Arte Fuse, and White Hot Magazine. Ma received her MA in art history and curatorial studies from Hunter College in 2020.

Think!Chinatown is an intergenerational non-profit based in Manhattan’s Chinatown, here to listen, respond, and build China­town’s capacities as a strong & vibrant immigrant neighborhood of NYC since 2016. Our mission is to foster intergenerational community through neighbor­hood engagement, storytelling & the arts. We push from within our neighborhood to shape better policies and programs that define our public spaces, celebrate our cultural heritage, and innovate how our collective memories are represented.