- 15 Photos
- In their own worlds. (Photo: Courtesy of DCMetroPeople.com/ )
The photos of DC Metro People show our capital's residents in what's perhaps their most natural state. On the Metro trains, few people are posturing. They're simply relaxed, in their own worlds — reading a free newspaper, reading a novel in paper or on a Kindle, listening to music, or perhaps just staring out the train windows. Most of all, the riders are waiting for their post. But the black-and-white iPhone photography featured on DC Metro People looks inside that world to show the intimate and strange nature of being a daily rider on a big city's mass transit system. I first highlighted these photos as well as the experience last week here.
The man behind the website is 26-year-old Ryan Reed. I asked him a few questions about how he goes about taking photos on the Metro — and whether commuters have caught him as he tries to take the photos. He's featured close to 800 photos from the Washington D.C. Metro on his website so far, and has given us permission to feature the 15 photos featured above in the gallery of images. Look through to get a sense of what he's been doing and to understand the motivations and emotions he describes in the Q&A below.
- (Photo: Courtesy of DCMetroPeople.com)
TBD On Foot: What inspired you to first begin snapping photos of your fellow commuters? Anything in particular?
Ryan Reed: I remember during the summer of 2008 when I started as an intern for my day job being afraid to ride the Metro. Every day for months I would walk from Union Station to L’Enfant Plaza simply to avoid riding the Metro and potentially going the wrong way and getting lost. A co-worker showed me how to navigate the system, and in 2009, I started riding it regularly and instantly became fascinated.
Ever since my first trip down into the system I have always found it visually appealing. The lighting, shadows, and people are what struck me the most, but I had to store all of that in my mind because I didn’t have a camera to capture what I was seeing. It wasn’t until November of 2009 when I got my first iPhone. It was the 3G model and I probably had one or two camera apps on it. I would periodically take photos of interesting people I came across on the Metro and "app them up" as I call it. I would either text it to my mom in Salisbury, Maryland or post on my Facebook wall. I wish I still had the text [message] but around March of 2010 a friend of mine sent me one suggesting we start a photo blog of random people on the Metro. The idea kind of faded until late one night in April, I decided to start a Tumblr, which I had seen other photographers start to use. I sent it to my friend and he thought the blog and the few photos I posted were great. From there the blog sort of took off.
To answer your question more directly, I’m not exactly sure what inspired me to start DC Metro People. I love photography and I love the Metro. It seemed kind of natural to combine the two. My iPhone camera roll was filling up with photos of random people so I thought, why not post them on the Internet and see what people think. I also don’t think I’ve ever taken a photo without listening to music. It helps set the mood and inspires me.
On Foot: And what led you to create such a web presence for them? From Tumblr to Twitter, you’ve really been out there.
Reed: I’ve always been fascinated with the web and social media. I don’t brag about my clothes or the rims on my car (if I had one) — I boast about receiving a Google Plus invite before the general public. After starting the blog it seemed natural to take it to Twitter. I saw the success of Unsuck DC Metro and how he was able to communicate with the people who follow his blog and I wanted to emulate that. I also joined Foursquare to let people know which Metro stations I am currently at. Checking in [online through Foursquare] so people know where I am is a little creepy and possibly dangerous, but my blog is very personal and I want to use social media to connect with people the best I can.
(Continue reading the Q&A with Ryan Reed after the jump)
On Foot: What’s your day job? Is photography purely an iPhone hobby or have you done something professionally?
Reed: When I’m not taking photos of people on the Metro, I am a web producer for a magazine. Part of my job involves shooting videos and photo editing, so I have an eye for photography and what makes an appealing image. DC Metro People is my outlet to try new things visually that I couldn’t do at my day job. I would definitely call it my hobby despite doing some work professionally and taking photography courses during college at Towson University.
On Foot: Has anyone caught you as you tried to discreetly photograph them on the Metro? What was their reaction?
Reed: I get asked this question a lot. No one has ever said anything as I’m taking a photo on the Metro. I have even been on the Metro trying to take a photo discreetly when the flash on my phone goes off! Despite the bright flash from my phone, which has happened three times, no one has ever called me out. I’ve had one person recognize themselves on the site and they emailed me asking for the title of their photo to be changed but said they enjoy the site. I’ve had others recognize their friend on the site as well. The reaction is usually a positive one. Recently I did receive a comment from someone stating my blog is rude, invasive, and dangerous. I understand why people would feel this way and all I can say is I’m not breaking the law. If you knew how many times your photos was taken by someone you didn’t know each day, you would be shocked.
On Foot: Do you have any favorite photos?
Reed: That’s really tough! I think last I looked there are 775 photos of mine posted on the site. If I had to pick a favorite though I would go with "Morning Rubdown." The photo was recently featured in the 2011 DCist Exposed Photography Show. It’s really hard to pick other favorites though. I really like when I capture someone truly in the moment, maybe it’s right after work or after a first date and they’re on the Metro and they just sit and collect their thoughts. Those are the moments I like to capture and those are the photos that speak to me the most.
On Foot: How long to you plan to continue updating DC Metro People? Is this a part-time hobby or would you hope to do more someday? I liked your trailer of Metro video from last fall.
Reed: I joke with my girlfriend that she is killing DC Metro People. I’m happy all the time, and it’s hard to take really depressing photos of people. Not to mention all the time being in a relationship takes up. For now it is a part-time hobby and one I truly enjoy doing. The minute it starts to be work, I will stop doing it. I would really like for DC Metro People and iPhoneography to both have more recognition. People are taking great photos with their iPhones and it’s a medium that people need to take seriously. As far as DC Metro People, I never wanted to make any money from it but who doesn’t want a little recognition?
The trailer is something I shot using a bunch of video clips I shot last fall. Since then I haven't been able to find the time or figure out a narrative for the video project so it currently stands as just a trailer. I haven't given up on it yet but I want it to be something really interesting and I just need to find time to plan it all out.
On Foot: What emotions do you associate with commuting and all those people you’ve photographed?
Reed: It’s easy to see that from the photos, titles, and site design that I’m going for a somber, almost depressing feel to the blog. For me, the subway exudes a dark emotion and I try to capture that and show people what I see. Having said that, just because my site is dark and I capture the expressionless looks on people’s faces doesn’t mean my site doesn’t have a positive message. If nothing else, I hope people who visit my site take away that beautiful moments happen every day, and you shouldn’t get so caught up with things that don’t matter that you miss them.