If I seem more drowsy than usual, it’s because I haven’t been able to sleep on the MARC train for weeks. The culprit? Photographer Eddie Winter’s collection of images of commuters passed out along the ride between Baltimore and Washington. When they were posted recently to the website Good.is/design, I clicked through the 15 shots of folks with mouths agape, tucked under jackets and curled up against windows.
Even though I wasn’t one of the models, I can recognize myself in those photos. Winter does, too, which is why he put together the series, called “Exciting New Positions!” “I’m a little afraid that when people see them, they think it’s making fun of people in their most vulnerable moments,” he says. Really, it’s his way of showing that everyone gets exhausted by the daily grind. And no matter how different we can seem as individuals, when we’re asleep, we’re all in the same boat (or, er, train). “We’re drooling on ourselves, helpless, at the mercy of the world,” he says.
It says something about the level of comfort train commuters feel with one another that they’ll so willingly put themselves in this state. So did Winter violate the trust of his fellow riders? It certainly makes me less likely to give into my drooping eyelids, but I can’t help but be drawn to the images.
It was an exciting new position that turned Winter into a train rider. He went from being a bartender to working at the State Department, which required waking up at an hour when he used to go to bed. Normally, he immediately conked out when he got on the train. But one morning, with the sun streaming through the windows directly into his eyes, Winter realized he wasn’t going to drift off. When he saw a young woman in a deep sleep, he decided to shoot.
Without a zoom lens, he needed to get up close and personal with her, as well as his 80 subsequent subjects. “I had to be within two feet for most of the photos,” Winter says. But no one noticed when he clicked away.
And no one saw the photos for a very long time. Although Winter snapped these pics more than four years ago — that’s when he left his State Department gig and the long commute behind to focus on his art — this is the first time he’s officially shown the works. (Although he did put together books of the photos to hand out to his favorite conductors as farewell gifts.)
For Winter, this is a personal project rather than a commercial one. So he thinks there’s a critical photo missing from the collection. “I wish someone had taken a picture of me. I would have liked to include it,” he says. If it’s not too late, I’m happy to volunteer. I can’t sleep now anyway.