Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

A Brooklyn artist imagines the D.C. Metro map made out of M&Ms

January 20, 2012 - 10:31 AM
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(Concept/photography: Henry Hargreaves; Styling: Sarah Guido)

Henry Hargreaves likes subway maps. What this Brooklyn-based photographer truly understands, however, is that our obsession with transit maps speaks to a broader fondness for the cities, for the metaphor that the maps represent. To honor these maps, Hargreaves and his stylist Sarah Guido created "The Subway Series," a set of photographs in which they recreated subway systems from around the world using different media. He brings the Paris Métro to life with pipe cleaners; Moscow's subway lines are portrayed with yarn; New Year City's system is illustrated with vibrant pieces of ribbon.

And the D.C. Metro? Our city receives the tastiest of treatments from Hargreaves, who recreated our WMATA lines using M&Ms, featured above. Hargreaves started as a pin-up model for fashion houses like Prada and Lacoste before moving to Williamsburg four years ago to start his own studio. "I have been shooting full time ever since," Hargreaves writes on his website, "specializing in both still life and fashion photography." His clients have included GQ, New York, and Ralph Lauren. I conducted a Q&A with Hargreaves to learn more about his work and what motivated him to approach transit in such a creative way.

TBD On Foot: What first inspired your Subway Series and how did you choose how to represent all the different transit systems? When did you first assemble and shoot all these?

Henry Hargreaves: I come from New Zealand so didn't grow up with a mass-transit system like a subway. London was the first place I encountered one and I was really blown away by the scale of it and got such a kick out of riding under a city and popping up right next to your destination. Then studying these maps figuring out how to get somewhere I kind of fell into a trance with the colors and lines that are used to represent a route and how I felt somehow they create a kind of a metaphor of a city.

The idea came to me a few months back to recreate these maps with no stations, just lines out of odd products and see if the patterns out of context would still be associated with the city. Then it was just a matter of scheduling it with my stylist and shopping for the goodies.

On Foot: How many of these subways have you taken a ride on? What’s your impression of the D.C. Metro?

Hargreaves: I have been on all of them. D.C. was many years ago, I remember massive stations, honeycomb-like concrete work inside, and some story about the stations doubling as nuclear shelters (not sure it's that's an urban myth...).

On Foot: I like how you picked such a tasty treat to represent DC’s Metro. How long did it take you to arrange the M&Ms like that?

Hargreaves: Actually D.C. was the fastest as we didn't have to glue the M&M's down. So about an hour.

On Foot: Have any of your other projects featured transportation so prominently?

Hargreaves: No this was my first adventure into this genre but not my last! I am planning another based on racing tracks... 

On Foot: You mention that you started as a pin-up boy in the industry before transitioning to your current studio in Brooklyn four years ago. What motivated the shift?

Hargreaves: I had done what I set out to do in front of the lens and wanted to do something I had control over my career with.

On Foot: Finally, as a transportation blogger I have to ask — what’s your favorite and least favorite parts of riding the subway?

Hargreaves: I like people watching, which used to be more fun before the i-accessory generation. I liked to see people and make little stories in my head about them based on what they are wearing, reading a conservative paper or a racy novel, on their way to work or a wedding... Now everyone is attached to an anonymous mobile device.

Least favorite would be subways that close earlier than the bars. London, I'm looking at you!

To see more of Hargreaves' work and the other entries in his Subway Series, visit his website.

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