Winner, The David R. Coffin Publication Grant
A vibrant exploration of the everyday life of one of the most diverse places in the world: Queens, New York.
Remade by decades of immigration, Queens, New York, has emerged as an emblematic space of social mixing and encounters across multiple lines of difference. With its expansive subdivisions, tangled highways, and centerless form, it is also New York’s most enigmatic borough. It can feel alternately like a big city, a tight-knit village, a featureless industrial zone, or a sprawling suburban community. Through more than 200 contemporary photographs, Joseph Heathcott captures this multifaceted borough and one of the most diverse places in the United States.
Drawn from more than a decade of roaming around Queens and snapping photos, Heathcott conveys the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the extraordinary, the mundane and the surprising, and the staggering social diversity that best characterizes Queens. At the heart of the story are two separate but entwined histories: the rapid expansion of the borough’s built environment through the twentieth century, and the millions of people who have traveled from near and far to call Queens home. Newcomers have had to confront discrimination, white racial hostility, legal challenges, and language barriers. They have had to struggle to find adequate housing, places to worship, and jobs that pay enough to survive. And they have done all of this in the borough’s jumbled collection of neighborhoods, housing types, civic and religious institutions, factories and warehouses, commercial streets, and strip malls.
Heathcott makes primary use of documentary photography to bring these social and spatial realities of everyday life into relief. He also draws on demographic data, archival sources, planning documents, news stories, and reports. The result is a visual meditation on Queens that provides clues about an urban future where notions of citizenship and belonging are negotiated across multiple lines of difference, but where a sense of ”getting along”—however roughly textured and unfinished—has taken hold in the everyday life of the streets.