I spend a lot of time on the subway. When I first started flirting with the idea of documenting life around me in a more consistent way, I tried to bring a camera to work everyday but I failed miserably. I rarely got it out of my pocket because I felt too self-conscious about pointing a camera at people in the middle of a crowded subway, as an introvert that was just never going to happen. Plus, since I do the same route everyday, I felt there was nothing new of interest to photograph so I got really frustrated and thought I just wasn’t cut for street photography.

At the time, I had invested a lot of time and money in my cameras and I was kind of going through a snobbish phase of dismissing mobile photography as not real photography. But life has a funny way of throwing random events that have unexpected consequences and force you to re-evaluate your perspectives. My old phone’s battery died and I was forced to buy a new one on a short notice; after reading some reviews online, I became quite interested in the dual camera technology on Huawei phones (especially for the monochrome camera sensor), so I got myself a used P10.

Fueled on that new gadget excitement, I started taking snaps of random things more often and I quickly discovered that absolutely no one pays attention to someone pointing a phone, especially in the subway where everyone else is also totally absorbed by their own phones! I could take pictures completely unnoticed, sometimes at point-blank range without disturbing the scene. This was a complete game changer and suddenly I saw interesting things everywhere: the people, the light, the shadows, the architecture, everything. It didn’t take long to realize that the quality of the camera had nothing to do with how I was capturing images, it was my mindset and my seeing that had changed. In fact, for documenting the daily grind of commuters I feel that the more lo-fi the better, I always edit these photos on the phone to add some extra grit.

I’ve also embraced the limitations of a phone camera as a creative tool, in particular the low shutter speeds and the blur that comes along with it. I frequently shoot while moving to maximize the motion blur and turn commuters into anonymous ghosts, which is how I feel most of the times while riding the subway.

These are some of the everyday scenes that have piqued my interest, all captured with a smartphone.

20th of August, 2018

6 thoughts on “Commuters

  1. These are some beautiful images. My experience with mass transit is nothing like this. These scenes are “open space” compared to the NJ Transit and PATH trains. I never get a seat and I am so close to people that I can feel each breath on my face (or coughing on my neck). I no longer commute this way. I like my car. I love my car.

    Liked by 1 person

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