When I’m riding the subway, whether above ground or under it, I find myself looking through the windows and doors of the subway cars and taking mental snapshots of what I see to store in my memory for later use. I see a pattern or a texture in the frame of my mind’s eye, not quite sure what to make of it but, I know I will come back at some point and capture what I saw with my camera. I do this too, as I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train and scan the scene around me. The tracks below my feet, the platform facing me from across the tracks, the turn styles, the girders holding up the ceiling of the tunnel, etc. All have a special appeal to me to make them into a photograph. A snapshot of urban life.
Saturday, I rode the N train to Queensboro Plaza, where I switched to the Flushing bound #7 train. My plan for day was to get off at each consecutive above ground stop and start creating some photographs from the mental images I’ve stored up. I began with the platform at QBP before boarding the #7 that just had just pulled in and getting off a few minutes later at 33rd and Rawlson Street, the start of my journey and, continuing until 111th Street. The ride took me through the Queens “melting-pot” neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona; alighting on to the sidewalk only once, at 46th & Bliss Streets to take a few photos of the vaulted ceiling beneath the Queens Boulevard Viaduct.
At each stop I prowled the platform looking for and trying to match my earlier mental images as well as finding new things to capture; like the stained glass windows at Rawlson Street, brightening up the dark passageways with welcoming colorful light. Each station was dominated with horizontal and vertical lines. These pieces of wood and rusted steel with patches of weeds growing between the cracks or caked in decades of industrial paint, are what I see each day as I ride the rails and what pinged my urban imagination.
The straight shooting lines of the train tracks as they stretch out to infinity, smoothly swerving right or left carrying giant silver segmented caterpillars filled with human beings peering through windows – lost in thought. Although, these tracks run up the middle of the street they are unbelievably close to the buildings below them, practically just a long jump to the roof tops. Of course the roof tops were just photographic manna for me. The apex of homes, shops, restaurants and commercial buildings covered in a riot of graffiti, a maze of air conditioning vents, open air shafts, tarred over sky lights and a veritable forest of satellite dishes. A smattering of paint cans and ladders and for some unknown reason a pedestal fan that stood apart from the rest of the gritty, grimy roof top residents with nowhere to plug itself in. On one roof were two cages, I thought at first they were pigeons cages, but they were made of iron bars not chicken wire and there were no signs of pigeon feathers or poop. It kind of creeped me out as I can’t imagine what they were used for but, they did make for a thought-provoking photo.
At 111th street, I spotted the giant silver orb of the old Unisphere still standing in Flushing Meadow park, a last and fond reminder of the 1964 World’s Fair that I went to with my Mother, brother and two sisters; I was 7 years old and the memories of that day are as clear as if it were yesterday. Also, peeking over the trees were two more remains of the fair; the rockets from the U.S. Space Park and the ruins of the Observatory Towers.
Leaving memory lane behind me, I boarded the Manhattan bound train and headed home, my camera stuffed with photographs.
Enjoy the ride.