A lot can happen in one second: NYC Subways

This is a series I’m really happy with. I’ve long been fascinated with the NYC Subway system. When I was a teenager I read an article in The New York Times Magazine about people who lived underground in the subway tunnels, and saw a documentary on subway graffiti artists of the 80s. Both of these stuck with me and planted a dream in my soul to experience the subterranean world of my country’s most populous city. Since then I’ve had the good fortune of visiting New York several times since I was in my early 20s.

So for some time now I’ve been obsessed with photographing the underworld of New York’s Subways. It later carried over into many other underground transportation systems around the world as I traveled; many of my photos of those worlds you can find on Instagram via a little-used hashtag called #subwayghosts.

As for this series, I shot these photos with my Leica, using 35mm or 21mm lenses, ƒ/16 at 1 second exposure, no tripod. I love the idea of “a lot can happen in one second” as it represents the fleeting nature of life— that we should seize and be aware of every moment. And because life is messy and often times feels like a blur, I’m pleased with the outcome of the shaky and almost slight double-exposure feel of some of the shots; a result of the instability of trying to hold the camera steady for a full second while the shutter is open. Hold your breath and hang on… 

One other thing to note, and then I’ll get on to the photos… Usually you come to the subway to do one thing… catch the next train. You get on, and then you’re on your way. But as a photographer trying to document the feel of the subways, it’s just me and the musicians who stay to absorb multiple transitions. You notice that it’s much like the ebb and flow of life… people come, people go… transitions happen, there is life around you, energy builds, something suddenly stops, and then… silence and solitude.


Italy: Central Apennines

I took these photos earlier this month during my visit to the region of Molise in Central Italy, in the beautiful Apennine Mountains. I was visiting dear friends; hope to return many times.

Misty views and ancient ways,
Sun-drenched and shadow-splotched,
Mountain chains, rugged paths,
Journeys set adrift yet never born,
Early light until the birth of night.

Welcome to Isernia Province…


Doors of Italy: Power Portals

I’ve long held a fascination with doors as a photography subject. On my Instagram account I started a collection under the hashtag “#ktrap_doors” with over 500 doors I’ve captured from all over the world. Among my favorite locales in the world for “door hunting” are Uganda, Nepal and, of course, Italy. So I’m very happy to bring you this collection of doors from Venice and parts of the region of Italy known as Isernia. From the Venetian Lagoon to the Apennine Mountains, let’s turn the knob and step into the world of Italy’s classic portals…

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Moving south to the province of Isernia, region of Molise…


A Day in Venice: City of Perpetual Intrigue

Continuing our walk of the city of suspended art, we discover the interplay of wood, iron and stone with light and water. Many of Venice’s buildings are suspended by the trunks of the water-resistant alder trees, harvested hundreds of years ago in Slovenia. The foundations of the buildings are made of limestone placed on top of the closely-spaced piles (tree trunks) which have survived centuries of submersion in the oxygen-sparse waters of the Venetian Lagoon.

Thus much of the city is essentially suspended above the waters on what one could call man-made islands of classic architecture and quiet walkways. There are no vehicles in the city; not even a bicycle can be seen. Only pedestrians and the narrow vessels of the lagoon can be seen. For its unique nature, I would refer to the city as one of deep history, perpetual intrigue and romance— a romance with the city herself which, aside from the tourist-overrun areas at certain times of the day, is captivating and endless— with the turn of each corner revealing new discoveries in exponential possibilities.

In my next post I have a very special treat for you, another fundamental theme of our fair Venezia I am saving as the final “dolce” touch of my series. Stay tuned, and thanks for following along.

All images on this blog © 2015 Kirby Trapolino.

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Venezia: Spirit of the Gondola

On my way home from Nepal I had the incredible opportunity to stop through Italy, when the 56th Venice Biennale art festival was getting underway. After the trauma of facing Nepal’s devastating earthquake aftermath, I found solace in the soothing elegance of Venice’s gondolas. They seem to weep at times, as their heads bow in reverence to the shadowed tunnels from which they humbly emerge. Indeed I myself had things over which to mourn. Venice’s somber waterways seemed a fitting backdrop for my contemplative recovery from the previous week’s heartbreaking realities.

The timing of my trips, both of which were already planned before the earthquake, seemed surreal, yet poetically appropriate. I have more themes to share from my Venice wanderings and then will take you south to the mountainous Isernia province of Italy where I reunited with lifelong friends I had not seen in years.


Nepal Earthquake Relief: Sankhu

Today was another emotional roller coaster here in Nepal. The scenes of devastation we saw seemed straight out of a WWII movie. The village of Sakhu appeared to have been bombed in an air raid; residents were sifting through the rubble trying to salvage what little is left of their possessions. But on a much higher note, we were able to bring 125 families here a week’s rations of rice and lentils. Nepal has a very long road to recovery ahead. However, for months to come our local native team will continue to serve these who have lost everything. If you have not already done so, please consider making a contribution of any size to Peace Gospel‘s Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund using this link. It really will make a difference.

We started the day searching for rice and lentils in the city. We had to call dozens of shops before we located one that had stock available. Then we made our way out to the Sakhu area where we distributed rations in two locations.

Here are some shots from the first location. We used a makeshift tent some families have been sleeping in as our distribution point.


Some of the children who were playing around while their parents waited in the queue for rations…


Life inside the tent where these will be living for quite some time…


As we then drove and walked across the village to get to our next distribution point, these were some of the shocking scenes we discovered…


You can see where this resident is sleeping out on a mattress in front of their home. While the home is still standing, it will need to be torn down because it’s no longer safe to live in…


We then reached the other side of the village where we found a much-needed calming view…


When one of the women in the field saw me, she came up to me explaining that her house had fallen down in the quake…


My friend Cody helping unload the mini-cab into our distribution point, this time, a local church building…


As we waited for the families in need to gather, I had the chance to take some portraits of those who were arriving…


These boys made their own swing set using some cord they had found in the rubble…


Now the families had arrived and we began to distribute the rations…


On the walk back to our truck, we assisted in whatever ways we could as the residents tried to salvage what they could out of their homes. This family was fortunate in that, although condemned as a tear-down, their home was still standing, making it easier to rescue their belongings. Cody was able to help them get some furniture out…


I’ll leave you with more scenes of the catastrophic devastation we witnessed as we departed. This is our Nepal director Bimal surveying the aftermath…


Nepal Earthquake Relief: Sindhupalchowk District

Catch up on why I’m here in Nepal and how you can help, too, by reading my previous post if you haven’t yet seen it. Today we made our way to a tiny village in the Sindhupalchowk District, pretty close to the China border. Bimal has a friend from that village who reported that nearly all the village residents had lost their homes, were sleeping under a long goat shed and desperately needed bedding supplies. So yesterday we scoured the markets in Kathmandu for what little supplies were available, and managed to come up with enough foam padding and blankets to get them a bit more comfortable arrangements while they are in the process of rebuilding. We set out at 6am for our journey to reach them…


On our way, we witnessed a quite bloody motorcycle accident. I have photos but I’ll spare you because they’re quite gory. We applied first aid and loaded the two victims into our truck. Bimal and our friend sped them off to the local hospital while Cody and I got to know the villagers and their amazing foot bridge you’ll see below. In this first photo (check out his t-shirt!) you can see the crowd still assembled around the point of the accident… (note that you can click or tap on any of my photos to see a larger size)


Before we knew it, Bimal and his friend had returned from the “ambulance” run. So we were back on our way to Sindhupalchowk, and these are some of the scenes of devastation we encountered…


The juxtaposition of such destruction against a backdrop of breathtaking beauty was surreal. I am not quite sure which two peaks these are, but this range runs along the China-Nepal border of Sindhupalchowk District. The peaks are just about 30km from where I took this shot (at Irkhu). Typical elevation of this range is around 7,000 meters, or 23,000 feet.


We then finally reached the village where we conducted the supplies distribution. The people, especially the children, were humble, grateful and precious souls. We first began by unrolling our huge sleeping pad material and cutting it into pieces for distribution…


We also brought first aid and water purification supplies. The kids played around with us and absolutely loved the makeshift mattress padding…

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We also passed out new blankets for each homeless resident of the village…


This sweet lady volunteered as the coordinator to make sure that all residents who had been left homeless by the earthquake received their supplies…