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Come out and play… Photos of NYC’s Subway from 1980

No shade, but everyone’s a photographer on the New York subway. Instagram is overflowing with candid shots of subway riders, to a creepy, almost up-skirt level, where you realize that when you’re traveling on one of the busiest metro systems in the world you are always being watched and probably documented if the millennial across from you thinks they can get your worst angle without you noticing. Bruce Davidson was a pioneer of street photography on the New York subway, and his photos of a time when Manhattan was actually interesting put all future pretenders to shame. With not an iPhone in sight, Davidson caught people in their daily commute on trains with photos that practically reek off the page. Davidson’s images make something beautiful out of a place that was clearly disgusting, and they show that before Chump sold off the city there was culture thriving and surviving there, culture that’s been paved over with bland, bougie money. These pictures, taken in 1980, show a New York City that has now fallen into legend – a grimy as fuck, forgotten wasteland that birthed some of the best artistic expression of its time. Subway was released as a book for the first time in 1986, and is available from the publisher Aperture here.

 

 

 

 

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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