Danny Lyon, IRT 2, South Bronx, New York City, 1979. (Courtesy of Fans in a Flashbulb)
A few years ago, when the NYPD and the MTA briefly concerned banning photography in the subway system, New Yorkers were, as a quick Google search shows, up in arms about the move. Shooting photos in the subway has become an iconic part of New York life and culture, and by mid-2005, the two agencies had dropped the camera ban.
Today, over at Fans in a Flashbulb, the International Center of Photography offers up a tantalizing glimpse at some subway photos from New York’s past. They highlight just five photos, and the shots, ranging from a 1943 Weegee shot of a crowded subway station serving as an air shelter to a 1995 Steven Siegel photo of the Culver Viaduct looking as rundown as it does today, leave you wanting more.
My favorite is the 1979 glimpse inside a graffiti-covered 2 train in the South Bronx. The subways were once so dingy, and everyone was so complacent about the state of affairs underground. In a way, that attitude exists today as New Yorkers still don’t view the subway system as something in which we should be investing instead of as an inconvenient means of transportation. Anyway, as these shots show, great photography underground can truly capture the essence and flow of the subways. Enjoy ’em.