Tube Stories (& Train Tales)

The London Underground…all these people in a little space underneath the city.  Millions of stories zooming around, A to B via F (or X depending on how random the diversion).

I could spend hours down there like a stealthy mole.  If you like “People Watching” then this has got to be the place for you.

The one thing that always strikes me more than anything about the tube is that it is a public, private space.

I wanted to explore how the idea of taking photographs of people in this space worked.  It is a public space yet somehow the idea of being photographed on the tube feels intrusive and voyeuristic.  I also wanted to document and demonstrate how experiences that we take for granted (and mostly deliberately shut out) are actually moments of great value and the perfect opportunity to get a small snapshot into the internal world of a complete stranger.

(You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter)

NB.  Please note this collection of photos is not intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  If you are featured in any of these images and would like a free print or would like me to remove it, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.


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64 thoughts on “Tube Stories (& Train Tales)

  1. These are wonderful. I love looking at people, and it’s hard not to on a subway. Yet, as you say, there’s something awkward and voyeuristic about it. A similar contradiction is that I would resist having my picture taken like this, but I love looking at pictures of others. Are you familiar with the subway portraits of Walker Evans? Do a Google image search on “Walker Evans subway” if you aren’t. I think you’d enjoy them. 🙂

  2. I don’t use subways very often, but when I do, I’m always entranced with the idea of all these different people with their different stories sailing along together past places full of even more stories. I have to ask: How do you snap the photos?? Do you just wait until they’re not paying attention, or do you pretend you’re talking to someone or looking at something and stealthily click the button? Whatever your technique, you’re a master at seeing and capturing interesting moments.

    1. Why thank you. I take them with my iphone (aahhh, the wonders of modern technology) and then there are many different techniques. Often somewhat clumsy) Basically, the main trick is to blend…to become part of the general background and to then take the shots whilst remaining invisible! It is a trixy thing. I think feeling uncomfortable is the first step in looking like you are up to something. Although these days I have become very concious of the phone reflection so I have to work very hard to stay relaxed. Pretending you are very focused on a game of “angry birds” is often a winner! 🙂

  3. What a great new way of looking at the tube. This new perspective is going to make my morning commute a lot more interesting.
    And I agree with the comment above, very Walker Evans (although a good way of bringing it into the 21st century with you iPhone). Well done!

    1. How humbling to be compared to the wonderful Walker Evans! If nothing else, the work that I have done and this blog has introduced me to work by an incredible artist from another time who appears to be inspired by the same thing. It amazes me that so much has changed in the last 70/80 years but yet so much is exactly the same…the wonder of human nature!

  4. excellent work, congrats! especially capturing those with i phone makes everything easier… its impossible to take a picture with out scaring the subject (people) with a chunky dslr. for that reason i phone is a great tool for those kind of situations.

    nice pictures + nice concept.

  5. I love these! Just back from a New York visit where I sat on subway and wished each person had a bubble above or a label so I’d know what they did, what they were thinking about. Your pictures in London’s tube speak those same questions, maybe partly answered, and thank you for the like on my blog – look forward to more of yours, Katy

    1. Thank you. Yes, it is challenging isn’t it. The whole idea of my Tube Stories work is to really explore the whole feeling of discomfort and why the tube (being public) feels more intimate than the street for example…

  6. I just love these; undergrounds are the most fascinating places, and you really succeed in capturing some essence of the subjects. I once to tried to do a similar thing on the Glasgow underground, but with writing instead of photography. There is only one circular line there though which isn’t very long and I started to fell queasy by the time I’d made it round once! I’ll look forward to keeping up with your photos instead…

    1. Thank you very much indeed. Love the writing idea. How did it work? Was it description of the person, a doorway into their thoughts, a combination of the two or something entirely different? I have a half memory of the Glasgow underground. Is there a lot of orange?

  7. There is! AKA the Clockwork Orange. It hadn’t been remodelled since the 70s, though there are renovations going on at the moment. I think the orange is there to stay though… It was sort of descriptions of the people, my assumptions about them I guess, and how that led me into my own thoughts. Stream of consciousness, I suppose. I only did it a couple of times (the nausea and all), I’ll have to dig out that notebook and I’ll post what I have if I’m happy enough with it still. There was something of that same thing, people suspecting they were being written about. I felt like such a voyeur.

  8. Your photos are wonderful. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to be somewhat hidden when taking photos in such an environment. I’ve taken some photos of people on the MRT in Taipei. Many of these are people sleeping, a very common occurrence on the MRT. I use a large SLR. Taiwanese seem to be OK with having their photo taken. They do it all the time to each other and of themselves. Thanks for sharing your photos.

      1. Yes, Taipei and all of Taiwan. The Taiwanese are very friendly and helpful. My wife and I lived in Taiwan for 8 1/2 years. After finishing her Fulbright, she was showing her own work and curating exhibitions with an environmental focus. One she has been doing for the last four years is the Chenglong Wetlands International Art Project I taught English as a Second Language at a university. While living in Taiwan we traveled to many countries in Asia. Some of my photos on my blog reflect those travels.

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