Bruce Davidson, Train of Thought: On the ‘Subway’ Photographs
At first I photographed in black and white. After a while, however, I began to see a dimension of meaning that demanded a color consciousness. Color photography was not new for me—most of my commissioned work and all of my films have been done in color. But color in the subway was different. I found that the strobe light reflecting off the steel surfaces of the defaced subway cars created a new understanding of color. I had seen photographs of deep-sea fish thousands of fathoms below the ocean surface, glowing in total darkness once light had been applied. People in the subway, their flesh juxtaposed against the graffiti, the penetrating effect of the strobe light itself, and even the hollow darkness of the tunnels, inspired an aesthetic that goes unnoticed by passengers who are trapped underground, hiding behind masks, and closed off from each other.
I began to explore the different subway lines, taking them to the end, then back again. Most of the time I didn’t set a destination, but chose to be carried wherever the subway would take me, occasionally referring to the map and making mental notes of places I wanted to return to…
Photo: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos