San Francisco’s Chinatown inspired Genthe to buy a portable camera and take up photography around 1896—only a few years before the extension and renaming of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which regulated Chinese immigration in the United States into the twentieth century. During this period, Chinese Americans were the target of significant political and economic discrimination. Genthe covertly took hundreds of photographs of Chinatown street life, forming an extensive record that often depicts the neighborhood and its inhabitants in a stereotypical fashion. This photo, for instance, is one of many the artist took of children in ornate holiday clothing.
Gallery label from 2022