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Haunting images of urban life (photographs)

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 01:14 am
I came across these haunting (to me, anyway) photographs quite by accident. And was very moved by them.

I won't tell you the context in which they were taken. If you're interested to know more, check out the links below. (There are more photographs from the same series there, too.)

http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/dynamic/00534/5099133_534605s.jpg


http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/dynamic/00534/5099138_534610s.jpg

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/the-end-of-the-line-michael-wolfs-photographs-of-the-tokyo-rush-hour-will-make-every-commuter-shudder-2182891.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/the-end-of-the-line-michael-wolfs-photographs-of-the-tokyo-rush-hour-will-make-every-commuter-shudder-2182891.html?action=Gallery

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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 3,171 • Replies: 23
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 01:19 am
@msolga,
Was that what you expected?

What were your initial thoughts about these photographs?

Any responses to them, anyone?
MonaLeeza
 
  2  
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 02:35 am
@msolga,
I've been on the Tokyo underground so it doesn't surprise me at all. Even when it's not rush hour it can be very packed.
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 02:45 am
It reminds me of how I felt when I had moved from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina up to Philadelphia for one of my first jobs while my husband attended school.

I had moved from a part of New Jersey, which was fairly urban and chronically traffic-clogged (commuting distance of NYC where my Dad worked his whole career) to go to university in the mountains of North Carolina on a working farm - my dream....and it was a dream come true ...I loved it.

Then my husband got accepted to school up north in the city. We moved. Until we found a place to live (about a month) we stayed with my parents and I had to take a train from New Brunswick, NJ to inner city Philadelphia - about an hour's journey. I had tried driving, but couldn't stand sitting in four lanes of traffic on 95 - at least the train kept moving....but I remember just looking out the window in despair and thinking, 'What did we do? How can I stand this for four years?' I used to feel like I wanted to cry...

But I did and it was okay...as soon as he finished school, we moved back to North Carolina - and then to Maine - which is a huge landmass with more trees and moose than people...now we live here and this is what I see on my commute - I actually stopped the car and took this picture on the way to work:

http://i85.photobucket.com/albums/k46/aidan_010/IMG_7439.jpg

All I can think when I look at those pictures is that there is a sort of beauty to them, but - what a life-I couldn't do it- it would probably make me feel physically ill and unable to face getting out of bed in the morning and getting up and doing it over and over and over again.

I'm glad I can live where I live.
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 03:26 am
@msolga,
It was exactly what I expected. Rush hour on the subway. Didn't know it was Tokyo.

The pictures remind me of why I like getting around the city above ground.

I think they portray a kind a silent, resigned, tortured quality.
mismi
 
  2  
Reply Sun 16 Jan, 2011 06:07 pm
@Roberta,
My initial response is "that looks squishy" for the first picture - the second one makes me sad. He looks exhausted.

It reminds me of Albania. The buses there were so crowded. There is no such thing as personal space....I had folks I didn't know squished all over me. I tried not to ride the bus very often. I like my personal space.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Jan, 2011 12:22 am
Thank you for your feedback, aidan, MonaLeeza, Roberta & Missy.

You are obviously all much more on the ball than I was when I was first confronted by these images. My first thoughts (before reading the accompanying text) was: what terrible thing has happened to these people? They seemed utterly lost & exhausted, working very hard to block out some terrible pain. What exactly had happened to them?

Then I read the text & thought: No one's daily experience in a big city should be so harrowing, so dehumanizing. This is too much.Why do they stay here & endure this, day after day?
But I'm sure there are scenes similar to these in other big cities, not just Tokyo.

I was talking about these photographs to a friend who'd visited Tokyo. She said there were folk whose job it was to push & squeeze all the commuters into the carriages (really quickly!) . Apparently in the hectic rush of getting so many people into the train carriages during peak commuting times, some people lost shoes ... & there are racks of lost shoes at the big stations for people to collect, at some later time, I guess ...

I hope this fellow, with his face squashed up against the glass of his carriage window, was listening to some perfectly serene music, which transported him to a much kinder, gentler place:

http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/dynamic/00534/5099218_534604s.jpg
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 17 Jan, 2011 07:10 pm
@msolga,
Well, they are interesting photographs but clearly with the context they aren't too deep an emotional set of pictures then if they seemed to be when taken out of context.

Like most morning commuters, almost everyone is still basically sleep walking. Nothing too intriguing with that.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Jan, 2011 07:11 pm
@msolga,
Well, they are interesting photographs but clearly with the context they aren't too deep an emotional set of pictures then if they seemed to be when taken out of context.

Like most morning commuters, almost everyone is still basically sleep walking. Nothing too intriguing with that. Maybe I'm jaded as I see these figures on a daily basis when I commute on the R train to work every weekday morning.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 01:31 am
@tsarstepan,
You must have felt very strongly about this, tsar. Two posts! Smile Wink

I think (well, I know) I initially responded to the images without knowing about the context. As such, I found these photographs very moving. Still do.

Interesting you see them as early morning commuters, I see them (after understanding the context) as "returners" from work after a long, exhausting day.

You know, seeing people in this exhausted condition, even though it may be a "normal" state of affairs for many in big cities, still makes me question .... I know heaps of people are required by the demands of work, to live their lives like this, but it still doesn't make it "right" that their lives are like this. Well, not in my opinion, anyway.
OK, call me a pie in the sky idealist, but I think our lives should have a little more dignity than this.


Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 02:18 am
@msolga,
And how are we supposed to get where we're going, you pie in the sky idealist you? There are lots of shoulds that can't work in the real world. Or the world that some of us have to live in. I spent four years traveling back and forth to college on an overcrowded subway, carrying heavy schoolbooks. Can't tell you the number of times the train was so crowded that my feet were not on the floor. I was held off the floor by the crowds. A scary way to travel. Somebody would move, and I'd unexpectedly hit the floor.

Dignity, shmignity. I got my degree.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 05:30 am
@msolga,
AS far as I witnessed on the train, most of the time, people sleep on the early morning train and usually never on the afternoon and evening trains. At least that's the case in NYC.

Personally, I don't see anything undignified about it.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 05:48 am
i was young in my subway riding days (18 to 28), i never slept (well i might have rested my eyes after a night of, shall we say, indulgence), but to and from work i either read or listened to music (god bless the invention of the walkman)
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 07:15 am
@Roberta,
Quote:
And how are we supposed to get where we're going, you pie in the sky idealist you?

Smile

Oh I don't know ... less crowded trains/trams/buses.
Staggered working hours so everyone (including the car drivers) aren't all heading in the same direction at the very same time?
Twice a day, every work day.

We're seeing similar things happening here, now that the population of my city is growing like crazy. Commuters hate it. Cities can get too big for comfort.

Quote:
I spent four years traveling back and forth to college on an overcrowded subway, carrying heavy schoolbooks. Can't tell you the number of times the train was so crowded that my feet were not on the floor. I was held off the floor by the crowds. A scary way to travel. Somebody would move, and I'd unexpectedly hit the floor.

Couldn't do it, myself.
Well not now, anyway.
That does sounds scary, indeed.

Quote:
Dignity, shmignity. I got my degree.

Good on you. Smile
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 07:22 am
@tsarstepan,
Quote:
Personally, I don't see anything undignified about it.

OK, I guess it's what you're used to.
Me, I find the idea of being so squashed in, with so many other people, that your face is jammed against the carriage window (like some of the commuters in the photographs) , or you're breathing all over other people & they're breathing all over you, not exactly comfortable or dignified. I'm thankful I don't have to do that every day.
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 07:24 am
@msolga,
There are staggered work hours in many areas. Doesn't matter. Too many people.

Fact is that I suspect that most people just do it. Don't think much about it. The photos make it look worse than it is. And I suspect that the photos would look about the same even if the train wasn't that crowded. People get lost inside themselves on the subway. Tired from rushing around in the morning or tired from a hard day's work.

msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 07:35 am
@Roberta,
Quote:
Too many people.

Yes.
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 10:22 am
@msolga,
Did a bit of googling. Trying to get some numbers. First, remember that most people are commuting to Manhattan, a small island, and only particular parts of Manhattan.

There are over 19 million people in the NY metropolitan area (NYC and suburbs). Five years ago, 1.5 billion (yes, Billion) trips were counted on NYC transit.

As we both agreed. Too many people.

But the subway ain't no big thing. However, back in the day when I was a working stiff, I would occasionally encounter tourists down there, looking dazed, confused, and a little scared. I tried to help.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 18 Jan, 2011 06:51 pm
@Roberta,
Quote:
But the subway ain't no big thing. However, back in the day when I was a working stiff, I would occasionally encounter tourists down there, looking dazed, confused, and a little scared. I tried to help.

Roberta, guardian angel. Has a good ring to it. Very Happy
0 Replies
 
Endymion
 
  2  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2011 12:30 am
@msolga,
Hi Olga-


I found a painting (black and white abstract) called "Packed Tokyo Commuter Train". I came across it by chance because I was trying to find a way of justifying my mentioning a sense of something 'renaissance art' like about these photographs (I didn't have any luck and if there is a comparison there, I can't explain it).

Anyway, this abstract painting I found really tricked me. I sat for a while staring at it up close, wondering how I was meant to be seeing a packed commuter train in the strange lines and acrylic textures.

Here it is

http://www.kazuya-akimoto.com/2009/2009contents/8583gallery8.html

So....

I was starting to think that I must be a dummy or something, because apart from Clapham Junction Railway Station, (from the air, perhaps) the painting wasn't bringing any thoughts of commuting to mind.

I just sat there thinking, 'what?'

After a while I gave up trying to 'get it' and went off to make a cup of tea. When I came back, I walked in to the room and saw the painting on my screen from a distance!

Suddenly, I could see them. The passengers, I mean.

So much like that bloke in the second picture – the way they are standing – the ghostly quality. I thought you might like to see it.


Also want to say

My first reaction to seeing the pictures was a political one – I could talk about that if you want.


cheers, endy
 

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