One hundred years ago today, New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burst into flames, killing 146 garment workers and fundamentally changing the way America viewed its laborers. In the months after the blaze, dozens of workplace regulations were passed, helping to make factories much safer. The Triangle fire inspired a massive unionization push that paved the way for the development of America's middle class.
On March 25, 1911, a fire tore through the top three floors of New York's Asch Building (Washington Place and Greene Street), home of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. On the eighth floor, where the blaze began, garment workers and their supervisors quickly filed out. Two floors up, the company's owners — Max Blanck and Isaac Harris — were notified by telephone of the fire and escaped by jumping to the roof of a nearby building.
But on the ninth floor, there were no phone calls, fire alarms or other warnings. In fact, the 200 seamstresses who worked there — many of them new immigrants to America — didn't realize there was a fire until smoke began pouring in from the floor below. Within a half hour, more than half of those women were dead.
In remembrance of the tragedy, a special memorial meeting was held this morning at the factory site. A fire truck ladder was raised to the sixth floor, representing the highest story firefighters could reach during the tragedy.
:washington post article, "what the triangle shirtwaist fire means for workers now"; wnyc article, "remembering the triangle shirtwaist fire, 100 years later"
Shadi Ghadirian is a photographer who lives and works in her native Tehran.
Ghadirian's work is intimately linked to her identity as a Muslim woman living in Iran. In her Qajar series, Ghadirian questions the role of women in society at large and explores ideas of censorship, religion, modernity and the status of women. The Qajar series of portraits was inspired by old plate-glass photographs from Iran's Qajar period (1794-1925). "Until that time, portraits were forbidden in Iran for religious reasons," Ghadirian says, "so the impact of these photographs on 19th-century Iranians was enormous."
For her own Qajar portraits, Ghadirian asked a painter friend to recreate the elaborate 19th-century backdrops. She then borrowed vintage clothing in which to dress female friends, and reproduced the poses from the old photographs, incorporating her own twist. Ghadirian juxtaposes the traditional images with symbols of contemporary life.
Ghadirian studied photography at Azad University in Tehran. After finishing her undergraduate work, Ghadirian began her professional career as a photographer. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across Europe and the United States. Ghadirian's photographs are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Currently, Ghadirian works at the Museum of Photography in Tehran.
:images shadi ghadirian