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Asians* in Focus team launches project to document the impact of coronavirus through photos

In May 2020, a group of Asian American women activists from across the U.S., developed Asians* Unmasked: A PhotoVoice project highlighting stories of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) during the time of COVID-19. Asians* Unmasked is the pilot project of the Asians* in Focus team, launched in recognition of May as both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. The hope is to identify and encourage creative efforts that will make positive change at individual, group, and societal levels.

Granddaughter looks at grandmother in the home through screen door.
“Family is undeniably the biggest part of Asian culture. When the quarantine was put in place, that part of our culture also became the hardest to uphold, especially for my grandma. She has stubbornly lived alone in her house for over 30 years. We would check up on her frequently to make sure she is doing well. The fear of COVID made this practice very difficult—what is safe? Staying away and isolating her? Or visiting her to ensure her safety?” - Dao Than, Denver, CO

Asians* Unmasked reflects the diverse experiences of AANHPIs who, like communities around the globe, were impacted by COVID-19. This included the impact of racist attacks against Asian Americans who were blamed for the pandemic. AANHPIs were invited to submit photographs that reflect their life during COVID-19, to tell their stories in their voices.

Adapted from PhotoVoice SHOWeD, participants were asked how they would describe their image to someone who may be visually impaired, what the image means to them, and what changes they would like to see in the world based on their experience with COVID-19.

Asians* Unmasked is intended to be more than just a collection of interesting photos. During any crisis, it is essential that individuals have an opportunity to voice their perspectives and work towards making positive change.

Participants’ reflections conveyed desires to: end racism, improve the health and mental health systems, improve/change leadership, ensure economic justice, change work conditions, protect the environment, and be compassionate.

Fifty-six ethnically diverse Asian Americans, ranging in age from 15 to 78, submitted photos from across the country. Eighty-two images were categorized into: life and community changes; connection or isolation; racism and oppression; health and mental health; service to others; resiliency and hope; and ways to change the world.

The photographs and descriptions were shared in a virtual gallery launch party that took place on July 31. The gallery is now available to view at

Asians* in Focus will call for another round of submissions in October 2020 for Asians* Unmasked. Join their email list at and follow @AsiansinFocus for updates.

Written by: Janet Namkung

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