Holding Up More than Half the Sky, 2004
For Holding Up More Than Half the Sky, Laura Burns and I were invited by the New York gallery Art in General to produce a site-specific window installation that would respond to the gallery’s close proximity to sweatshops employing Chinese and Chinese-American women. After studying the history of sweatshop labor in New York City's Chinatown, we spent time there interviewing neighborhood labor activists in the neighborhood. We then made our request to photograph these women. The activists, however, expressed their discomfort at having their portraits displayed publicly, as this might hinder their ability to surreptitiously organize workers. We responded by photographing the women with their backs turned to the camera.
Holding Up More Than Half the Sky
The garment trades in New York City have been greatly affected by globalization, increasing production costs and the aftermath of the events of 9/11. In 2003 there are fewer factories in Manhattan than ten years ago. In spite of this the garment industry is still the largest manufacturing sector in New York City, employing some 50-60,000 people.
In 1982 20,000 workers gathered in Columbus Park to protest working conditions in the Chinatown garment trades. These three women were among the organizers. Today, they cannot face the street for fear of repercussions in the workplace, where violations of workers’ rights persist. All of them still work as union organizers.