© 2018 Stephen H. Kahn Trust    Steve Kahn (1943-2018)     stevekahnphotography@gmail.com

Represented by: Howard Greenberg GalleryNY, and Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, SF.

Post 9/11 Subway Portraits 2002-2003

New York City is perhaps the most diverse city in the world, and the subway system is how its population gets around -- to and from work, home, school, meetings, nightlife, recreation, doctor appointments, court appearances, etc. New Yorkers use the subway to go everywhere within the five boroughs; it is a shared, integral part of their collective lives. It is a common place, politically neutral, physically safe and relatively efficient. 

Many passengers travel alone and retreat into their own private psychic spaces, entering into a transit state of consciousness. Whether asleep, absorbed under headphones, reading the paper, magazine, book or script, or just gazing into nothingness, they remain joined in purpose, separate but equal -- enveloped and buffered by the train and its noise.

Transit time is a time to be alone with one's thoughts and feelings - and New Yorkers have had a lot to think about lately. Since 9/11, the collective thoughts of these commuters have taken on a grim commonality. I share in these thoughts and fears. It can be read in our eyes and deciphered from our body language.

I began photographing in the subway in March of 2002, looking for expressions of this fragile bond of humanity. I felt this was the right place to be looking for the heart and soul of the city. With its contained, minimal environment, limited color pallet and infinitely varied subjects I had all the elements I needed for my canvas.


TECHNICAL: These images were made with a medium resolution digital camera, using its gimble-mounted monitor for indirect viewing. Much of the image information lies beneath the digital noise threshold, so that shapes emerge out of a sea of arbitrary visual artifacts. Rather than being abstract, the images are merely imprecise - capturing the underlying atmosphere and tension in the train. 

EXHIBITIONS: Forty prints from this body of work were first presented in a solo exhibition entitled "New York El Metro" at the Centro de Investigaciones Etnológicas, Granada, Spain. The show coincided with a conference of anthropologists, and was accompanied by a catalog that included twenty images from the series.

UPDATE: After the start of the war in Iraq, the nature of shared purpose among commuters changed and was replaced by government sponsored paranoia, typified by such campaigns as, "Si ves algo; di algo." It became more and more difficult to photograph in the subway, and I eventually stopped altogether.

Click on image below for slideshow and captions.