Vanishing Chinatown - PBS KVIE

May 26, 2020
6:00pm Pacific Time
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Join PBS KVIE for an online screening of the latest documentary in our ViewFinder series, Vanishing Chinatown, followed by a panel discussion.

In 1923, Isabella May and Leo Chan Lee opened a photography studio in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Over 40 years, their photographs, portraits, and profiles documented life for Chinese Americans, photographing them as they wanted to be photographed. They marked weddings, parades, banquets, Boy Scouts, family associations, and civic organizations – all aspects of life in a racially isolated community. These are photographs that show Chinatown’s growth as an important social and economic space, as well as a changing environment. And as the Chinese Exclusion Act separated families, the May’s Photo Studio blended portraits of workers in the United States with pictures of their families back home to create wistful, evocative family photos, decades before Photoshop. The film premieres on-air on PBS KVIE on May 27 at 7PM.

Broadcasting from California’s capital since 1959, PBS KVIE inspires viewers to explore the world and connect with their community through engaging experiences in current events, drama, history, nature, science, and more. For the 17th consecutive year, PBS is the most trusted institution in America (based on a nationwide survey). And as a PBS member station, PBS KVIE airs national shows like NOVA, PBS NewsHour, and Masterpiece and tells local stories with shows like Rob on the Road, Studio Sacramento, ViewFinder, and more.

Video Descriptions

Welcome to Vanishing Chinatown

OVEE Vanishing Chinatown with Intro

60 minutes


  • Holly Healy and Richard Robey

    Holly Healy is the Community Engagement & Events Project Manager at PBS KVIE. She is responsible for managing station events and maintaining and building relationships with community members. Richard Robey oversees the station's social media channels, assists with the production of the OnSix guide, and produces blogs and other creative content.

  • Richard Robey

  • Kellie Raines


  • Michael Sanford, Panel Moderator

    Michael Sanford is the Associate General Manager for Production at PBS KVIE. He has more than 35 years of experience in television news, programming, and production. He joined PBS KVIE in 2005, launching our national series America's Heartland. Michael oversees all of PBS KVIE’s local, regional, and national programs, including Inside California Education, ViewFinder, KVIE Arts Showcase, Yes! We're Open, and Rob on the Road. Prior to PBS KVIE, Michael was the managing producer for Business Now on ABC stations, and News Travel Network. His assignments included many destinations in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Michael’s work has appeared on CNN, Discovery Channel, RFD-TV, Voice of America, and the Travel Channel.

  • Emiko Omori, Director/Editor

    Emiko Omori began her career as a filmmaker and cinematographer in 1968, when there were few camerawomen and fewer still Asian American cinematographers. Her first job was as camera/editor on the KQED program, NewsRoom, in San Francisco. She left KQED in 1972 and, since then, has freelanced as a producer, director, cinematographer, and editor on many award-winning films, taught, and traveled extensively with her work in addition to making her own films.

  • Wylie Wong, Co-producer

    Today an art collector, dealer, and Asian art consultant, Wylie Wong was the starving student who rescued the May’s photographs from a San Francisco dumpster. He collaborated with the late historian Jack Chen on Pear Garden in the West, an exhibition of photographs from The May’s Photo Studio that traveled from San Francisco to Seattle, New York, Hong Kong, and China. Wong has organized major art exhibitions by well-known Chinese artists in the San Francisco area. He is a contributing arts writer to the International Examiner and earned his MFA from the California College of the Arts.

  • Lydia Tanji, Producer

    Lydia Tanji’s passion for the fantastic Cantonese opera costumes she saw in photographs compelled her to tell their story in Vanishing Chinatown. Best known for her costume design for film and television, credits include The Joy Luck Club, Carved in Silence, Unfinished Business, Dim Sum, and Thousand Pieces of Gold. She has worked on re-creations for documentaries: We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears, Transcontinental Railroad, Gold Rush, and American Experience: The Chinese in American with Bill Moyers. She has lectured at universities in the United States and Asia and has co-curated fiber arts exhibits in Hong Kong.

  • Corinne Chan Lee Takayama, Interviewee

    Corinne Chan Lee Takayama is the granddaughter of Leo and Isabella May Chan Lee. She grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in a downstairs flat from her grandparents. Corinne was immersed in Chinatown life, attending Commodore Stockton (elementary) School, taking ballet lessons from dancer Tony Wing, and attending Chinese language school for two hours daily. Corinne attended Lowell High School then the University of Hawai’i, Hilo, in Early Childhood Education. She taught for 30 years. Corinne lives with her husband, Brian, on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and is the mother of three sons.

  • gayle yamada, Executive Producer

    gayle yamada has directed, produced, written, and been the executive producer of award-winning national and regional programs for public television and radio for more than three decades. She began her career as a journalist in commercial radio, television, and print, and has taught at the university and secondary school levels, co-authored two history books, and served on several cultural and broadcast industry panels and boards. After working in media for decades, she recently returned to school to earn her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Humanities, and now applies what she learned to programs such as Vanishing Chinatown.

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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.