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”
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.
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That is an experience I do not envy, my friend! 😀
Thanks for posting your story and amazing photos from one area using a smart phone – these just show what can be done to someone staying out like me. Pleased that you got your motivation back.
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