photographs by 

Charles Wong & Irene Poon

October 20 - November 24, 2012


OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday October 20, 6-9PM


SMITH ANDERSEN NORTH is pleased to present Doubletake, a selection of photographs by Charles Wong & Irene Poon

that together document over 50 years of urban street life.  Both born in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Poon & Wong’s Asian-American identities are a shared point of departure and represent a distinct point of view on civic life--particularly, that the street is not only a theater, but a vibrant and complex intersection of public and private concerns, from performance and protest to love and death. In a 1999 interview with Poon, Wong discusses the Chinatown area, roughly defined by Broadway St. south to Pine st. and Montgomery St. west to Powell St., “It was unwritten, but somehow that was our boundary…the ghetto.” While Wong’s brief but prolific photographic career is defined in the Chiaroscuro of Chinatown’s streets of the 1950s, Poon steps outside these boundaries and expands the dialog with a sharp wit and keen eye for the way the figure occupies and activates space, from the political and social unrest of the 1960s to the present. Showcasing these two separate but related trajectories, Doubletake invites a second…a third…and maybe even a fourth look. 


Charles Wong was born in San Francisco in 1922.  After finishing high school he received a scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in 1940.  World War II interrupted, and Wong joined the Air Force. He returned to the California School of Fine Arts from 1949-1951 to study photography in the program newly founded by Ansel Adams. There he studied with Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White & Imogen Cunningham. Wong documented the Chinese community, as well as the larger world. Part one of these series, “Year of the Dragon” was featured in a 1952 edition of Aperture magazine. His work can also be found in the self-published monograph Black & White/Sweet & Sour, available at Smith Andersen North. 


Irene Poon was born in San Francisco in 1941.  She studied photography with Don Worth at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) where she received her Master of Arts degree in photography in 1967. Poon's work has been shown in many venues including the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in 1968 and the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA) in 1971.  She has been involved in many panel discussions & lectures concerning the Asian American experience.  Poon has curated and co-curated several exhibitions for the Chinese Historical Society of America where she served as a board director for three terms. Her photographic portraits of older Asian American artists were published in Leading the Way: Asian American Artists of the Older Generation, Gordon College 2001.  Her work can also be found in the self-published monograph Point/Counterpoint: Black & White Photographs by Irene Poon, available at Smith Andersen North.



LEFT: Irene Poon, American Symbols, 1966. Vintage gelatin silver print, 7-3/8 x 7-1/2 inches

RIGHT: Charles Wong, Campaigner, 1950. Vintage gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches