Bruce Davidson on the danger of the 80’s New York City Subway
“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and onto the darkened station platform, a sinking sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night, and everyone who rode it knew this and was on guard at all times; a day didn’t go by without the newspapers reporting yet another hideous subway crime. Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist—or a deranged person.”
On shooting strangers in the subway
“I dealt with this in several ways. Often I would just approach the person: “Excuse me, I’m doing a book on the subway and would like to take a photograph of you. I’ll send you a print.” If they hesitated, I would pull out my portfolio and show them my subway work; if they said no, it was no forever. Sometimes, I’d take the picture, then apologize, explaining that the mood was so stunning I couldn’t break it, and hoped they didn’t mind. There were times I would take the pictures without saying anything at all. But even with this last approach, my flash made my presence known. When it went off, everyone in the car knew that an event was taking place– the spotlight was on someone. It also announced to any potential thieves that there was a camera around. Well aware of that I often changed cars after taking pictures.”
Buy Bruce’s Subway book here | See Bruce Davidson speak tonight (June 13th 2016) at the National Arts Club in New York City.