Photographer finds beauty in New York City subway

Home > Culture > Features

print dictionary print

Photographer finds beauty in New York City subway

The dark and foreboding atmosphere and graffiti-strewn walls of New York City’s subway system have been a backdrop for numerous films. For the American photographer Bruce Davidson, they are a source of inspiration and wonder.
Davidson’s photographs taken in the city’s subways, which are being displayed at Gallery Lumiere in southern Seoul through May 10, capture office workers, students, families and tourists, as well as homeless people and pickpockets.
“In the subway, what is beautiful appears bestial, and what is bestial becomes beautiful,” the photographer explains in the notes accompanying the exhibit, titled “Subway.” “People in the subway moved me to uncover a beauty that goes unnoticed by passengers.”
He also wrote, “In transforming the grim, abusive, violent, and often beautiful reality of the subway into a language of color, I see the subway as metaphor for the world.”
Last year, Davidson was one of three photographers whose work was used in an exhibition of subway photographs shown in the Museum of the City of New York to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the city’s subway. The other artists were Camilo Jose Vergara and Sam Hollenshead.
Between 1980 and 1985, Mr. Davidson traveled more than 600 miles on the subway in the course of taking his photos.
Born in Chicago in 1933, Davidson started taking photographs when he was 10. Later, he studied photography, graphic design, painting and philosophy at Yale University.
Drafted into the U.S. Army, he was stationed in Paris, where he met the pioneering French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, founding member of the Magnum collective, who died last year.
In 1957, Davidson began working for Life magazine as a freelancer. He joined the New York- and Paris-based Magnum collective the following year.
Davidson said he “wanted to transform this subway from its dark, degrading and impersonal reality into images that open up our experience again to the color, sensuality and vitality of the individual souls that ride it each day.”

by Limb Jae-un

The gallery is open from 10:30 a.m. till 7 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday and till 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is 5,000 won. Lectures on the exhibition in English are given at 4 p.m. on weekends. For information, call (02) 517-2134 or go to
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now