New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Working Stiffs at the Queens Museum

Working Stiffs: Photography from the Collection
Berenice Abbott, “Hot Dog Stand, 1936”

One surprise of seeing “Working Stiffs” is finding Berenice Abbott, Sylvia Plachy, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith, W. Lewis Hine plus a host of lesser known photographers in the middle of Queens, a five minute walk from Citifield (new home of the Mets) and even closer to the National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, and all easily accessible by the #7 subway. I mean, WHO KNEW? But here it is, a modest but very diverse exhibition of 54 images that’s comprised of work from the Museum’s own collection. The term “Working Stiffs” is an affectionate bit of slang from the 19th and 20th centuries and is generally defined as those of us who have to work for a living performing mundane or back-breaking jobs. Think office worker, sewing machine operator, steelworker, hot dog stand worker, farmer, etc. The Donald Trumps of the world need not apply. The exhibition includes a wide variety of working stiffs, from Sylvia Plachy’s street photograph of four Santa Clauses walking down stairs, plus an image of a Coney Island lifeguard from the 1930s, “Wonder Woman” (in costume) doing her wash in a Brooklyn laundromat, an 1884 hand-colored albumen print entitled “Loading the Fourchambualt” (a cannon), a basket maker, and many more. There are also the “living photographs” by Mole & Thomas, a team that created “the Human U.S. Shield,” the incredibly detailed 1918 portrait of the 30,000 men and officers of Camp Custer of Battle Creek, Michigan. Whether the U.S. soldier can be classified as a “working stiff” may be up for discussion, but there’s no denying the time and talent devoted to creating this photograph and others like it in a no-tech era.

If you’re in the neighborhood or need a little diversion before a Mets game or while you’re at the U.S. Open this September, take a look at “Working Stiffs.”

Working Stiffs: Photography from the Collection

Queens Museum of Art
NYC Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Queens         Map

718 592 9700

Tuesday, July 13 to
Friday, December 31, 2010
Hours: Wed-Sun, 12 to 6; Fri to 8