Home Gallery present Thomas holton‘s “The Lams of Ludlow Street”, curated by William Chan. The series, documenting the life of a Chinese family living in New York’s Chinatown photographed for eighteen years, is one of the most significant works on the Sino-American experience. Chan selected four images to display in the window gallery, one at a time. Every two weeks, passers-by discover a new photograph in chronological order.
Thomas Holton first met the Lams, a family of five, in 2003. The family lived in a 350 square foot apartment on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Initially drawn to their narrow living condition, Holton’s early photographs, while true, only represented the surface. Over time, Holton became part of the family, picking up the children from school and going on trips with them. He didn’t always photograph them, but their progressive bond allowed for a more intimate and nuanced portrait of the family.
In the later chapters of this series, when Holton photographed the Lams again, the family dynamic was different. The images went beyond those of a family grappling with their physical space or their assimilation. The children grew into adolescents, the father struggled to find a stable job, and a marriage that dissolved. We soon realized that Holton was telling the story of an American family of Chinese descent rather than a simplified essay of a Chinese family living in America.
This exhibition is of considerable importance due to its location and timing. While parts of this series have been on display in many museums and will be included in a group exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery once they reopen, these images have never been so openly accessible to the very community to which they are addressed. The representation of Asian Americans has improved since the Bath Time photograph was taken in 2004; Linsanity came and went, Crazy Rich Asians was the number one movie, and Andrew Yang is currently running for mayor of New York. Despite this progress, there has been an increase in anti-Asian attacks since the start of the pandemic.
At a time when many young people in the neighborhood are trying to find their place and belonging to the America of 2021, Holton and Chan hope these images can contribute to conversations within the community and to a larger dialogue.
The exhibition is on view at the Home Gallery in New York until June 1. On May 20, an online exhibition of the series curated by the now adult Lams Children will launch. It will include their comments, some of their own photographs, and their perspectives as the subjects of this series.
Thomas Holton: The Lams of Ludlow Street
Until June 1, 2021
291 Grand Street New York, NY 10002