Why I love the tube and all its passengers and find photographs thereof to be most enjoyable.
I have many small obsessions, many of them revolving around that thing we call “the human condition” (as if we have anything to compare it to). One of these obsessions is with strangers, and as an offshoot of that, public transport. I could almost say that the people I like most are strangers, the people that are big fascinating balls of mystery to me.
The layout of most London Underground trains require you to face a paired stranger and play the fun game of look-anywhere-but-into-their-eyes. Occasionally, someone might smile at you or even talk to you (in which case you will need to retrieve the crucifix and cloves of garlic from your bag that you make sure to carry with you at all times just in case such a horrifying event should occur). I could ride trains all day and just look at people and dreamily imagine their entire lives. Perhaps this person is a gravedigger that used to be in a funk band called “Candy Floss Cats” until they fell out over whether or not they should do an ironic cover of Baccara’s “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” and subsequently she had to move in with her dad, who is most accurately described as a balding Vernon Dursley. Perhaps this person once tried to chat up Jools Holland and ended up being pushed into a pond as a result. Perhaps this person is addicted to candy floss and no-one will take him seriously even though he is spending all of his wages on candy floss.
Those are the more outlandish fantasies, but I want everyone to tell me about the mundane details of their lives. I want to know their opinions on Kinder Eggs and the favorite things that they remember from their childhood. I want to give them chocolates and draw pictures of them.
Taking pictures of people on the tube is a stealth mission but worth it for the most expressive outcomes, thick with the intricacies that take one person’s boredom and turn it into another’s fascination.
This article is dedicated to the Hungarian-American photographer Cornell Capa, brother of the famous Magnum reporter Robert, and to his great humanitarian and social contributions in educating and changing the world. Capa's photos depict genuine human feelings, hope, and solidarity, and avoid commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism. I write this tribute facing a delicate argument: mental disability.
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