80s New York City Subway Photography

80s New York City Subway Photography

This week I finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point for the second time, and certainly not my last. It’s a great book with super useful and engaging insights about how little things can have a huge impact. One of the examples Malcolm uses is how the criminality in New York City tipped in the 80s and what caused this fad to decay. The first thing done to eradicate this problem was to clean up the subway as it was dirty and rife with graffiti. This post was inspired by Gladwell’s study. To illustrate, we are pleased to feature a few images from Bruce Davidson’s book Subway. You can also play Final Fight to have the same feeling :)

Bruce Davidson’s groundbreaking Subway, first published by Aperture in 1986, has garnered critical acclaim both as a documentation of a unique moment in the cultural fabric of New York City and for its phenomenal use of extremes of color and shadow set against flash-lit skin. In Davidson’s own words, “the people in the subway, their flesh juxtaposed against the graffiti, the penetrating effect of the strobe light itself, and even the hollow darkness of the tunnels, inspired an aesthetic that goes unnoticed by passengers who are trapped underground, hiding behind masks and closed off from each other.” In this third edition of what is now a classic of photographic literature, a sequence of 118 (including 25 previously unpublished) images transport the viewer through a landscape at times menacing, and at other times lyrical and soulful. The images present the full gamut of New Yorkers, from weary straphangers and languorous ladies in summer dresses to stalking predators and homeless. Davidson’s accompanying text tells the story behind the images, clarifying his method and dramatizing his obsession with the subway, its rhythms and its particular madness. – Amazon

Subway is Davidson’s visceral take on the New York underground system of the 1980s complete with beleagured passengers, Guardian Angels, graffiti and a palpable, all-pervasive sense of fear. A glimpse of a New York that is already long gone. (Sean O’Hagan The Guardian 20111213)

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