Commuter Diary

I’ve been playing around with this idea for a while. I don’t know that there’s anything particularly new about what I’m doing, either subject-wise or with technique. But I’m doing it as an exercise in freeing myself up creatively, forcing myself to be open to happy accident, and not getting hidebound with notions of what photography “should” look like. Photography is capable of recording and compressing time into a single frame, and I’m interested in exploring how we react and respond to seeing that. It’s not what we expect when we look at a photograph- we expect very short “frozen” moments, 1/250th of a second, blur-free, movement-free, sharp, literal. These photos are NOT that. They’re shot in B – long exposures made by my pushing the shutter button and letting go when I’ve decided I’ve captured “enough”, anywhere from a couple of seconds to closing in on a minute. So much can happen in just one minute.

Metro Passengers
Ignoring the Map

I’m trying to capture the experience of being a regular commuter on public transportation. It’s an impressionistic approach to the concept, recording the passage of time and the movement through space of the vehicles and people in a public transit system. Rail system maps are in every car on every train in every city in the world that has a public rail system. It’s easy to separate the tourists from the commuters as the tourists are pouring over every detail of the map, and the commuters are doing their best to ignore it and everything and everyone else around them.

Foggy Bottom Metro
Foggy Bottom Metro

This is the view of the platform with a train at the station at Foggy Bottom, looking down the Up escalator. With the train relatively stationary, the zig-zaggy lightning-bolt forms of the station lamps captures the movement of my breathing as the camera hangs against my body. Even when standing still, movement is all around you, but that’s the nature of public transit, isn’t it? It’s all about constant movement, circulating people from one end of town to the other.

Metro Passengers
Pole Hanger

Every rail system (and bus system for that matter) has a means to support people who are standing while riding. The poles are a terrific convenience while riding, and a terrific obstacle when trying to exit. They grow near doors like chromed branchless brambles that collect passengers who are ready and waiting by the door for THEIR stop, transforming to boulders in the current throwing eddies and whirlpools in the tidal flow of commuters on and off the carriage.

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