This time, instead of being so infrastructure-focused, I thought I’d try being a bit more people-focused in my Commuter Diary. It’s one of the hardest things about this project – adding in the human element, getting a little less first-person in the experience and showing the other people using public transportation, while keeping it abstract. There’s a natural tendency when photographing people to want them to be absolutely sharp, clear, and obviously the main subject of the image. Well, when you’re throwing sharp, clear and objective out the window, how do you photograph people?
Riding the subway always involves a descent, a passage, and a re-emergence. It’s a normally terribly un-heroic journey that bears a very vague passing resemblance to the hero narrative of Joseph Campbell. Unless of course you’re claustrophobic and/or agoraphobic, whereupon riding the subway is an anxiety attack waiting to happen, and surviving the ride is a transformative experience.
Here is the descent into the underworld:
The passage through:
Emerging on the other side, returning to the daylight and the world of mortal men, the escalator ride up is both salvation and alienation, because who would understand or even believe your having done battle with a steel dragon and survived?
These are some first attempts at bringing the “experiential” style of photographing that I’ve been doing to bear on people. There have been a few attempts at doing pictures of individuals this way but they, at least to me, really don’t work. Maybe I’m being too rigid in my thinking, or maybe I’m dead on the money. Time will tell.