I love riding the subway. It is an enormously interesting microcosm of people, whose lives are brought together for a brief period of time just to give the observant street photographer an opportunity to capture it.
Every time I visit a major city I make an effort to ride the subway with my camera. When riding the subway, the smaller the camera the better the chance of being unnoticed and not confronted. And trust me you don’t want to be confronted by someone angry that you took their picture in a small place with no place to go. My Fuji X100 serves that purpose very well although I have shot in the subway with my Nikon D700 as well, always with a wide angle. I have to admit that the subway is the one place that I shoot from the hip almost every time.
Recently I visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was hesitant to ride the subway because I heard so many stories about Rio being a dangerous city. But I had to experience it and I’m glad I did because I found the subway system in Rio to be clean, bright and safe. It is even better now that they are preparing for the World Cup and the Olympics.
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence”. -Paul Simon
Another cities I visited with great subway systems are Paris and Barcelona. They are extremely safe and give you access to the local people and their mundane activities.
But the best is always going to be the New York subway system. I love not just riding the trains in New York but also spending time in the subway stations. New York’s Grand Central is of course a great place to get images of people. You should know that taking pictures in the subway is not illegal in New York as stated in the rules here. But you have to exercise your own judgement on how long you can be in a station or train before someone thinks you’re a creep or a cop who didn’t get the memo starts asking you to delete your pictures. See this article in the New York Times.
One subway stop that I really like, and spent a lot of time in, is the City Hall-Brooklyn Bridge station on the 4-5-6 lines. It has a large outdoor covered area before entering the trains where you can spend hours just watching people go by, rushing for the trains or coming out exhausted after a full day of hard work. It is the station closer to the pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge which is another phenomenal spot for street photography.
I recently read an article about a secret area of the City Hall station that only locals know where you can see the stunning architecture of this station. Here is the article.
Miami does not have a great subway system, we only have an above ground MetroRail and Train system that I sometimes ride. I look forward to getting on the trains and I don’t get too upset if they are delayed. More time for me to practice street photography.
Subways, buses and trains stations is where life happens with a lot of intensity. I’ll try to be there when it does.