The Subway Chronicles
Tracks, part of the Reflections on Manhattan series by Thomas Hawk
“People who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and in the subway” — Simeon Strunsky
New York City is one of my most favorite places in the world. There is something about New York — the energy, the vitality, the nights and lights and the passion and the tension and it’s all rolled up together in this amazing place that is one of the most photogenic spots on the globe.
Last October I had an opportunity to spend a weekend there and spent two days just running around the City with the sole purpose of completing a photo essay entitled Reflections on Manhattan.
I was very pleased with how the essay came out and it was nice to hear from Jacquelin recently who wanted to use one of my photographs for her site.
Recently increased attention has been focused on Subway photography. From a recent ban suggested by the MTA in New York, to my own experience of being asked not to photograph in Grand Central Terminal with my tripod, to the recent run in that local San Francisco photographer Steve Malik had with the SFPD and the ensuing photo protest organized by Jackson West of SFist, there is a lot of misperceptions about the dangers of subway photography versus the need for national security post 911.
It would be a shame to see the continuation of some of the great art of the past 100 years go away in a politically sensitive environment that seems to grow less and less tolerant towards the subway photo artist.
Of course Jacquelin’s site is much more than just subway photography and I’d encourage you to check it out. She has essays on the subways, diaries on the subway, poetry on the subway, and more.
It was over 30 years ago when the brilliant songwriter Paul Simon penned the phrase, “and the words of the poet’s were written on the subway walls,” and even longer since Russian journalist Simeon Strunsky wrote about finding democracy on a train, and yet, still today there is something special about the subway that remains.
I love the subways of New York and the weekend that I spent back there last October photographing the fine City was one of the best of my life.
Thanks Jacquelin for including a little piece of that part of my life as part of your excellent project. And for those of you who photograph the subway, check out Jacqueline’s site and I’d encourage you to submit your work to her. She’s got a great thing going.
By the way, for more excellent subway photogrpahy check out Travis Ruse’s site.