I was recently in New York City for a She Has Hope fundraising event and had Sunday to do some photo-wandering. However, as it was 17°f (-8°c) I decided I would do most of my photography indoors. Someone had recommended that I visit the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, known as the Oculus. The thought occurred to me that this was a sort of modern counterpart to the historic Grand Central Station transportation hub, and so I set out to do a photographic essay on the contrasts of the two.
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.