Bruce Davidson on Photographing the Subway

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Legendary photographer Bruce Davidson discusses the 25th anniversary of his collection Subway, which has just been re-released. Plus, he discusses the submissions to our listener subway photo project - including those from Vesna Gajic, Olga Kasatkina, and Ernest Herman.

EXHIBIT: Aperture Gallery presents Bruce Davidson: Subway | On view: Monday, October 3-Saturday, October 29, 2011 | Info and Directions»»

© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
Listener Contribution from Paul Szynol

The NYC subway is one of the richest sources of material for documentary photography that NYC has to offer, the place where people from all walks of life meet in passing, and the spot where many "only in NYC" moments happen. I think this photo, of a man exercising in a subway station while one woman waits for him to finish and another walks by pretending not to notice, falls into the "only in NYC" category. Bruce's images are one of the reasons I became a photographer, incidentally, so I am very happy to get to share this photograph with him! Cheers, Paul Szynol

Listener Contribution from Jacqueline Silberbush

Taken on a morning commute, just before heading underground. Shot in an instant from the passenger seat of the train. It reminds me of just opening my eyes, the entire picture in halves.

Listener Contribution from Vesna Gajic

Last May I've visited NY and had 3 inspiring weeks full of photography excitement. After a lovely evening out with a friend, we started taking pictures at the Astoria Subway station, with the view on Queensborough bridge. This is one of the outcomes. For me it shows the movement in the city, but also the little sequences of silence. I call it "rush & hush" :)

Listener Contribution from Ernest Herman

Face-to-face. (© E. Herman/

Listener Contribution from Olga Kasatkina

This photo was taken one year ago. There was only one moment when I could see this scene - the amazing light, the woman turned to the window and the recognizable view of Coney Island. That time I was working on the series "Take a Train". This picture couldn't be include in it (it looked different and I knew it at once), but my camera was ready for shot and I got one of my favorite photos.

© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation
© Bruce Davidson/Aperture Foundation


Bruce Davidson

Comments [11]


This is actually the Triborough Bridge. That's the bridge which the Grand Central Parkway turns into right after you pass under the Astoria Blvd elevated subway station. The Queensboro Bridge is down in Queensboro Plaza and comes into Manhattan near Bloomingdale's.

Jan. 02 2012 12:14 PM

While the segment was broadcasting I couldn't open the showpage to see the photographs. As soon as the show was over, it opened right away. Did anyone else have this problem?

Oct. 18 2011 01:36 PM
EddieGoing from New York City

I think this is great - I snap photos of people on the subway EVERY SINGLE DAY! But my photos are an attempt at pointing out the indecencies and inconsiderate behavior of people who ride the train (or just exist in NYC in general). We are all stuck on the train together..the people who take up more than one seat, lean on the pole, eat smelly food...they all get their picture taken! Have you seen it?

ENJOY! :) And submit a photo if you manage to snap one!

Oct. 18 2011 01:00 PM

Not "juxtaposition"!

Oct. 18 2011 11:58 AM

the woman in red on the platform is very Edward Hopper.

Oct. 18 2011 11:53 AM
sher from Manhattan

I have a terrific photo taken in subway of some 8 young Hasidic children lined up along a subway bench - but I feel it would be an invasion of privacy ever to show it. Could he comment?

Oct. 18 2011 11:50 AM

Several years back, the NYT did a nice little article about one of the women in an iconic subway platform photo by Bruce Davidson,

Oct. 18 2011 11:46 AM
Yourgo from astoria

Its not the Queensboro bridge, its the Triboro Bridge!!! sorry RFK bridge

Oct. 18 2011 11:44 AM
MattyMac from Forest Hills

Vesna Gajic's image #5 I believe is the approach to the Triboroughm not QBB.

Oct. 18 2011 11:42 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

So how to take subway photos given all the MTA "anti-terrorist" restrictions? Or are they no longer in effect?

Also, can he discuss the ethics of verite; of photographing strangers?

Oct. 18 2011 11:14 AM
David Simonton from Raleigh, NC

I've been a photographer for more than forty years. Bruce Davidson's work has been a steady, sturdy presence ever since I first picked up my camera. In his New York photographs in particular, he has distilled and conveyed the entire spectrum of human emotions. His pictures are full of life! and, for so many of us, they are life enriching. He is the most humane of photographers, and the very definition of a "visual artist."

Oct. 18 2011 08:02 AM

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