Four of the earliest major civilizations were formed in river valleys . The fertile lands provided surpluses of food that enable the growth of populations, the development of cities, and thus the creation of civilizations.
Though we now live in an industrial and technological era, where the survival of our existence no longer simply depends on the availability of food, the pattern of our quest for living space still resembles that of the ancient river valley civilizations. Such is the premise of the 7 Train, the seven-mile-long subway line that connects New York City’s Times Square with seven communities in northwest Queens, the most ethnically diverse city in the country3 .
On a smaller but equally complex scale, some of the distinctive characteristics of a civilization – an intricate and highly organised society with the development of elaborated forms of economic exchanges, as well as the establishment of sophisticated, formal social institutions such as organised religion, education, and arts – are evident in the communities that have developed along the tracks of the 7 Train.
While I’ve been living along these tracks for years, I am still constantly awed by the complexity of the communities formed alongside it as well as the harmony so many people of distinct backgrounds are able to live in. I set out to photograph the ’habitat’ of the 7 Train as I came to see it, with a focus on not the individual but the people as a whole, as well as their relationship with their environment.
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao
1 Egypt on the Nile River, China on the Huang He and Yangtze Rivers, India on the Indus and Ganges Rivers, and Mesopotamia on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
2 Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona, Flushing Meadows, and Flushing.
3 According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the population of Queens was 2,229,379. 46% of Queens’s residents were born outside of the U.S. That is just over one million people (1,028,339). And foreign-born residents of Queens were born in over 100 nations, which make Queens the most diverse place in the world. Other counties in the U.S. have greater percentages of foreign-born residents, but nowhere else do they represent so many different homelands, ethnicities, and cultures.
Exhibition presented with the support of Julie Saul Gallery, New York.