Fiona Gardner
Brooklyn, NY


Artist’s Statement

Fiona Gardner is an artist and photographer based in New York. She received a BFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design in 1999, studied at the New England School of Photography, and graduated with an MFA in photography from Columbia in 2004. Her work focuses on women and performance in constructed environments. She has exhibited in group shows in New York and internationally

Fiona Gardner’s work focuses on women and performance in constructed environments.  She has photographed mermaids and Southern belles, and when the Minnesota-native laid eyes on Miss Subways, she was fascinated by the stunning headshots and aspirations that had been displayed on subway car placards in a bygone era.  She wanted to know: What happened to these briefly famous women?

Miss Subways was a beauty contest run by the Subways Advertising committee from 1941–1976. Every month, a different woman was crowned Miss Subways and featured on subway placards throughout the city. The contest was remarkable for the diversity of the women who were selected. The first black Miss Subways was crowned in 1947, which was 36 years before a black Miss America. The first Asian Miss Subways was in 1949.The Miss Subways contest focused on the careers and aspirations of everyday, working women.

Over the last several years, Fiona Gardner has been tracking down former Miss Subways to photograph them in the places where they live and work now. Writer Amy Zimmer is collaborating with her to interview these women and examine how their current lives compare to their past aspirations. Gardner captures the contest’s original allure, but from a contemporary perspective.  In her carefully constructed photographs of former Miss Subways, she wraps them in sashes and dramatic lighting that reference the glamour of pageantry, yet she stages the shoots in the everyday spaces of the women’s lives — their homes or places of work.  The original headshots were a celebration of youth and possibility.  Re-photographing Miss Subways winners, now in middle age and beyond, Gardner’s work provides a stark contrast, making visible the often ignored demographic of older women.

Artist’s Links

artist’s website:         

more information about project: