In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, New York City-based photographer Alexander Cody Nguyen teamed up with stylist Brandon Tan to create “Unbound,” a fashion story that challenges the western gaze. Nguyen and Tan recruited an all-Asian team—including model Charlie Nishimura, makeup artist Miki Ishikura, and hair artist Chika Keisuke—to create a space that paid homage to their shared and lived experiences. Nguyen explains that “with this photo series, I aim to showcase the creativity, beauty, diversity, resilience, and humanity of the NYC Asian American community… Asian Americans are never really seen, represented, or made to feel important, beautiful, and powerful. The possibility of what we could be or do was limited to a checklist; labels and tropes set forth from society forced us to adhere to norms that were never inherently our own.” The photos, Nguyen hopes, will “change that narrative for future generations.”
Tan added, “The project also serves as a petite homage to the known and loved neighborhood of Chinatown.” Unique locations were chosen deliberately for each photograph, including Seward Park, Doyers Street, and a personal favorite of Tan’s: the peking duck windows at Wu's Wonton King. “A love letter and reclamation for me, if you will,” he said. “I grew up going to a Buddhist temple with my dad, near Division Street. It wasn't until my Dad pointed it out to me weeks into living there that I had even noticed. For so long, I compartmentalized those cultural and familial parts of my life, [and] isolated them from what I do and know today, but in the past months, I've been working very consciously on reclaiming that.”
View the series below and consider donating to the AAPI Civic Engagement fund here.