True confession: I covertly photograph fellow Metro passengers during my daily commutes. Crowded buses and subways are my venues of choice, where I shoot mainly from the hip with my point and shoot camera.
My goal is to explore the humanity around me through candid portraits. Famed photographer Walker Evans is my inspiration. His New York City subway portraits, taken between 1938 and 1941, are some of his best known work. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he wrote, “even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors). People’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.” So I’m trying to capture people in their most unselfconscious state.
Viewers can make their own judgment, but I want the pictures to suggest a mood, an emotional state, but what is really true is anyone’s guess. Most passengers are quiet, lost in their own thoughts or just tuned out and plugged into their iPhone or iPod. Some read the paper.
There are, of course, the ubiquitous texters and voracious readers trying to finish that article or chapter before getting to their destination. There are also crossword puzzlers, cat nappers and the occasional engaged conversationalists who don’t mind being overheard. But mostly what I’m struck by is the isolation.
It is a recurring theme in my images. Subways and buses are filled with seemingly invisible passengers. Most of us are never around so many people in such tight proximity as during their morning and evening commute, but in these moments, we are still very far away.
Born in the District, Don Harris is a self-taught photographer whose works have been exhibited in several gallery shows.