Snap Queens For Photo History
The lens of Manhattan-based photographer Martha Cooper was one of several focused on Queens recently as part of an ambitious project that dispatched thousands of professional and amateur shutterbugs to capture everyday life on film — one with little chance that any of the resulting images would be the same.
who works for a non-profit called City Lore, was one of thousands of
professionals contacted by the creators of “America 24/7,” described as
the largest collaborative photo project in history, which called on
photographers nationwide to document a week in the life of the United States
from May 12 through May 18 to be published in book form.
The Tribune caught up with some of the photographers who focused on Queens in the hope of chronicling the distinct character of life here and spoke to project officials about their vision for this vast national panorama.
“Naturally, as a photographer, I wanted to get a picture into the book, so I wanted to do something out of the ordinary that no one else would have,” Cooper said explaining why she chose the city’s most diverse borough as her photographic setting.
proposed to shoot photos of members of the Federation of Black Cowboys at
their South Ozone Park stables and on parade in a pre-Memorial Day march in
were incredibly photogenic and it is such an odd thing to see horses
galloping in such an urban setting,” Cooper said.
also knew of a particularly picturesque spot on the route of the 7 train
which she submitted for consideration.
“The train comes around the bend and there is a wonderful view of midtown with the Citicorp building,” Cooper explained.
Another Manhattan photog also thought of Queens and the 7 train as the perfect railway merging point of urban hodge-podge in which to capture the essence of American diversity.
Fournier first proposed to shoot Elmhurst because of the extreme ethnic and
cultural diversity contained within the neighborhood, but reconsidered when
he recalled the inflammatory remarks of Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker
about the 7 train.
Rocker found the ethnic make-up of the train repulsive, Fournier said, “I
think the exact opposite, I think these people are very attractive because
of their diversity.
And they are hard workers, very serious.”
Fournier added, “And the food, there is so much food that this train passes through. It is amazing.” The appeal of the food and the people lured Fournier off the train where he took photos around Flushing, including a new electronics store built in a former bank building near Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street, which Fournier said embodied the odd balance of old and new in the neighborhood.
While the professionals working in Queens for “America 24/7” went to public areas to find compelling personal images, amateur participants shooting in the borough felt compelled to turn the scenes of their everyday life into public art.
resident Grace Papaseraphim, a stay-at-home mother of two and a volunteer at
P.S. 70, sought to turn the images of her everyday life into representations
of contemporary life.
was trying to stay with the theme of ‘your home town,’” she explained.
“Basically, it was what my neighborhood looks like.”
subjects that caught her eye included her 10-year-old daughter in a hammock
with a doll, houses on her block with weathered American flags flying out
front and laundry lines full of clean clothes drying the breeze.
decided to participate because she enjoyed reading past publications from
the project directors, but was concerned that her submissions might not
stand a chance against the professional submissions.
said, “If it is just an exercise to sell books, then I don’t know.
But if they give everyone an equal shot, then I think that’s
Papaseraphim, Fournier emphasized the value of amateur photos, since they
are by nature closer to their subjects than professionals.
“I think it is very important to document the way life is now,”
“This will give a lot of information on how we live, what we do,
what it important to us now.”
the deadline for submissions past, photo editors are now combing through
frozen moments to select approximately 10,000 photos to be published in a
series of 53 books — one national book slated for release in November, as
well as a book devoted to every state plus books for New York City and
Washington D.C. planned for publication next year.
are looking for extraordinary photographs of ordinary life,” explained
spokesperson David Carriere.
among these pictures, the editors will hand pick the images destined to
represent a week in American life.
said that the national book will include approximately 350 photos, while the
50 state and two city volumes will be shorter, entailing around 200 photos
Directors Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen are no strangers to the concept
of documenting a brief span in the life of nations and peoples.
a team they have met past success with their “Day In The Life” series,
including a top spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list for
their “Day In The Life of America.”