View Full Version : Moscow Subway Portraits
09-15-2011, 04:38 PM
I am doing a project in the subway of Moscow and now Kyiv as well. I would like to share some of the pictures to get opinions and suggestions.
First some background. I have lived for one year in Moscow and now I regularly go there for work and to meet friends, and to Kyiv as well. I am very fond of Moscow and I have learned the language and appreciate the culture. Moscow is, how to put it, rough sometimes. Still people can be very kind and warm, more than you, as a cool Swede might expect. In the subway everyone expect the rich meet and mingle. You have those without papers, the migrant workers, the unemployed, the pensioners, the poor, the middle class. In the Stockholm subway people stare into there smart phones, but in Moscow they sometimes look on each other. I wanted somehow to photograph this, and this evolved into this project. The atmosphere in Kyiv subway is similar, so I made photos there as well when going there for work.
I use a Nikon F3, sit down, remove the prism, and voila, I’ve got a waist level finder camera. The film is most often Tmax 3200 exposed at 1600, then Xtol. These pictures are negative scans (I have no dark room).
This is a small sample. What works, what doesn’t? What can be improved? Etc, etc. Thanks in ahead.
09-15-2011, 04:43 PM
09-15-2011, 04:47 PM
I really like these, and I like the idea as a concept.
It's pretty easy to have 'street photography', being so (relatively) trendy nowadays, become a series of snapshots. But these are clearly well crafted and interesting...all the more so as a group.
On a technical note, I'm interested in the TMZ -- the grain and tones look pretty appealing. Haven't shot the stuff for over a decade but you've got good results from it.
09-15-2011, 05:13 PM
first, some of the photos are made on Ilford's and Fuji's fast films, I changed the description to reflect that.
I have tried to photograph in the streets for years, and for some reason it's much easier abroad, but in a city that I know. The first days in a new place I can usually not make any interesting photos, got to get a feeling for the place first. And Moscow is probably the foreign city that I know best.
09-15-2011, 06:10 PM
I agree with Colin, the theme is very nice. The reason I have not tried Street Photography is cannot think of a theme. :( Kudos to you and I hope you create and share more images.
Have you tried Ilford Delta 3200? I have some coming and I wish the grain is as nice as yours.
09-15-2011, 06:31 PM
Hi and thanks. I've used both Neopan and Ilford too in this project, and they all worked for me.
Hmm, in my case the first photos came before the project. Only after I while I saw the potential to combine them in this way. Now I work dedicatedly and shoot a roll or so every day when I am in Moscow.
There are more photos. If you are interested you could take a look at erikpetersson.livejournal.com
09-15-2011, 06:54 PM
Like I said in a another thread with your images...these are fantastic. I really don't care for street work most the time, but the theme is great and the execution perfect. I'd put this in my photography shelf.
09-16-2011, 02:04 AM
Thanks again, Klainmeister!
Maybe I should show some of my less successful photos as well... I am struggling mainly with two things, to make sense of the often distracting backgrounds with advertisements etc, and to make sense of when people sit together. Sometimes they interact in an interesting way, sometimes not.
09-16-2011, 02:32 AM
I really liked all the photos I've seen. I wonder if you could group them in interesting ways - either as an exhibition with an order or as a book so photos on facing pages highlight a contrast, similarity or theme. You may be able to tease out some interesting observations doing this. One other thing, could you also change your angle of view? Perhaps by standing and having the camera hanging round your neck? This way you could have a view down the carriage rather than across which may give you some nice compositions.
09-16-2011, 06:31 AM
well, I am thinking of finding somewhere to exhibit them here in Stockholm. That would be a really interesting exercise. The order of the photos will of course be important. I don't know how to go about this though, I even lack a reliable way to print the pictures.
The angle of view has been decided by my sitting down and not raising the camera to my eyes. To do that would be too obvious, I believe, and the moment would be lost. Standing up might work, I'll think about it.
09-16-2011, 07:51 AM
You are doing beautifully by yourself.
However another source of guidance might be to examine the work of Walker Evans. He traveled the subways of New York 1938-1941.
“EVANS, Walker, "The Passengers", New York, 1938, Walker Evans, Princeton, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University Press, 2000.”
Other books that have examples of this work but are not limited to his subway photos:
Walker Evans; Museum Of Modern Art, NY, NY; Szarkowski, John, 1971
Walker Evans; Hambourg, Rosenheim, Eklund, Fineman; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2000
09-16-2011, 04:02 PM
thanks for that link John. Walker Evans basically did what I want to do, just a few decades earlier. I'll try to find that book.
He seems to have had worse light than I have in Moscow, or maybe slower film.
Most everything looks great to me, you're still brave to use an F3 even without a prism, because I'd think its still a little obvious. I dont think it will work with my F4, they will hear the motor wind, lol.
I think it will work better with my EXA.
09-16-2011, 04:42 PM
But people seem not to care. I try to think that photography is a contact sport. But also, that many people like to be seen and noticed.
09-16-2011, 05:08 PM
Here is another book on the subject. The lens peeking through a button hole may have been why the lighting was less than your experience in Moscow with a more modern camera and as you say faster film.
09-16-2011, 05:23 PM
Ha! That explains his framing!
09-16-2011, 05:30 PM
When I'm trying to be inconspicuous with the WLF of a TLR these days I often get someone yelling, "Is that a Rolleiflex?!?! Do you still shoot film!?!? Do they still make it!?!?" Sigh...
09-16-2011, 07:09 PM
The Walker Evans title that you should probably seek out is "Many Are Called". Though Evans made his subway photos during a 3 or 4 year period starting in 1938, he was uncomfortable with publishing the photos until 1966 (lord only knows why). He used a Contax 35mm which he concealed in his coat, with a cable release that was threaded through the sleeve. He often rode with a decoy (Helen Levitt was one, there were others) to help conceal what he was doing. Though it's often stated that he "shot through a buttonhole", he actually shot through the opening between buttonholes (so his problem wasn't so much dim lighting as it was slow film).
I've made photographs on the San Diego Trolley (a couple are posted in the gallery) and found that using a TLR wasn't problematic in the least. I think that the move away from film and into digital happened so rapidly here that it's made it very easy to do this sort of thing in the open. Nobody really knew, or cared, about what it was that was perched on my knee. I think that to do this right and place a unique stamp on it, you have to use a different methodology. 35mm SLRs restrict your vantage point and because they don't look vastly different, they're still a recognizable camera, thus harder to conceal and operate.
I'm actually getting ready to publish my photo-book via Blurb. The version available now is really just a review copy. I've been going back and forth with one of my mentors regarding the current edit. You can take a look at it here;
09-17-2011, 03:03 AM
That is a wonderful book you are publishing. I especially like the portraits of passengers. But one also gets a feeling of the entire thing, the tunnels, stops, wagons etc. And such a good idea to make a book. The blurb is book on demand service, right? They print and deliver the books after each order? It is true that a TLR would be easier to get away with, but the Moscow metro is dim so I really need the depth of field that 35 mm gives on f4, f2.8, sometimes f1.8. Also, I really like the puzzled faces I sometimes get. The woman with the number 51 in the background for example.
About the Walker Evans book, I am already ordering it. By the way, there will be a Helen Levitt exhibition in Stockholm starting next week, which I am looking forward too. The photography world must have been small in those days.
Perkelleinen, you said something about the angle of view earlier. I have been thinking, some of my pictures are made with an almost unpleasant angle. Too low. Thanks for that observation.
09-17-2011, 01:30 PM
If you haven't got a copy of Bruce Davidson's famous book (http://www.aperture.org/subway.html) now is a good time as Aperture have just published a third edition so the price is back from the stratosphere for a while.