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LaGuardia Community College Hosts Student Photo Exhibition of Long Island City Small Business Workers
“Long Island City Works” Opens on November 17
Long Island City, NY—November 1, 2011--There’s a striking black and white photograph of a welder illuminated by the sparks flying off his blowtorch. There’s a color image of a chef standing over a large steaming pot. In another black and white portrait, well-known photographer Tony Vaccaro casually sits in front of his portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe. These are just three of the over 100 faces of Long Island City’s small business community captured by LaGuardia Community College commercial photography students and now part of a photography exhibition at the College. The exhibition opens on November 17.
For more information, visit Long Island City Works.
“Long Island City Works,” captures a panoply of small business workers--the auto repairman, the jeweler, the furniture maker, the hot dog vendor--whose businesses make up the fabric of this Queens neighborhood and serve as the economic engines that drive the borough’s economy.
To kick off the exhibition, LaGuardia is hosting a reception on November 17 at the LaGuardia Gallery of Photographic Arts, located in the College’s B-building (3rd floor) at 30-20 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Viewing hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (718) 482-5985 or (718) 349-4028 or e-mail Ssternbach@lagcc.cuny.edu.
“The exhibition is a way for the College to recognize the workers of Long Island City at a time when the country’s economy is facing difficult times,” said Scott Sternbach, director of the commercial photographer program and one of the project developers. “And it was a way of providing our photography majors with the opportunity to go out into the community and make human connections with people who they otherwise would never have met.”
Armed with view cameras, digital and film cameras, 29 aspiring photographers knocked on the doors of small businesses offering to take portraits of their workers.
Susan Bibula chose the NYCON Concrete Company in Long Island City where she took stunning black and white portraits of 20 of the company’s mechanics, drivers and tiremen.
Sal, a mechanic and welder, was one of her subjects. In a powerful black and white portrait taken in a cluttered garage, Sal is shown resting his strong forearm on a large truck tire and looking straight into the camera. “My goal was to take very personal, close-up portraits of the subjects in their environment,” said Susan. “By engaging with the subject and starting the shooting from a distance and gradually getting closer, I was able to achieve my goal.”
Youngkyu Park chose as his subjects 29 artists who have studios in Long Island City. During the photo shoot, which took place in the artist’s studio, Youngkyu said he approached each subject in the same way. His first step was to read the artist’s personality by studying his or her work and face. “I am pretty good at doing that,” the photographer said with a smile.
During the pre-shoot phase, he also engaged his subject in conversation to make them feel comfortable, and, at the same time, scanned the environment for the perfect background. “During this conversation, my brain works in two ways,” he said.
For example, when it came to photographing Amy Bassin, a visual artist who has on her studio walls a series of blurred photographed of New York City streets at night, Youngkyu photographed a slightly blurred Ms. Bassin standing between two of her semi-abstract images.
The small businesses featured in the exhibition are located in a Queens neighborhood that has long been an attractive location for businesses large and small. Industrialists began to take notice of Long Island City in the early 20th century with the expansion of the railroad facilities and the completion of the Queensboro Bridge and the IRT elevated subway. By 1912, Long Island City, once farmland, had been transformed into an urban industrial park with over 300 plants. Taking up residence were companies that produced automobiles, metal parts, knit goods, pianos, candy and baked goods including the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company, which remained the largest bakery building in the world until 1955. In the late 1920s, Long Island City boasted to be the 14th largest industrial area in the country.
When LaGuardia Community College opened 40 years ago in a building that had been the Ford Instrument Company factory, its neighbors were the American Chicle Company, the Bucilla Yarn Company, the Equitable Bag Company and the Executone Systems Company, which moved into the building originally occupied by the Loose-Wiles Sunshine Company.
Today, small businesses thrive in Queens. According to Seth Bornstein, Director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, there are 45,000 businesses in Queens and 90% are small businesses with less than 10 employees.
“LIC Works” is the second photography exhibition of student work that LaGuardia has organized. Last year, the College hosted “Faces of LaGuardia,” a show comprising 60 stunning black and white and color images that capture the many nationalities making up one of the nation’s most culturally diverse student populations.
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for its boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.
Photo Credit: top photograph by Sebastian Loaysa; top left photograph by Sharone Poole, right photograph Susan Bibula, bottom left photograph by Masato Kuroda.