You can't really be lost on a train. You might not know where you are going but that is different. I had this thought more than once while I was taking these pictures. I have lived in New York City since 1978, and many times it occurred to me how little of the city I had seen. I would stare at the MTA map and feel my world was small compared to the one that map implied. Eventually I decided it would be a great thing to ride all the elevated trains in the city and see what I could see. So during the Fall of 2015 and the Spring of 2016 I did. I would get on a train, ride it to the end of the line, and then ride it back. Easy peasy.
Because I was staring at my camera (an Iphone) and trying to keep myself steady as I took these panoramas, I had no time to take in the view. It was only later when I could look at what I had shot that I could enjoy the ride. Honestly, I thought the photos were pretty weird (I still do, but in a much more committed way). I didn’t know what to do with them, but I sensed there were possibilities.
I was intrigued by the cinematic nature of the photos, both the time compression and widescreen aspect ratio. The flat perspective pulled on me as well, because of its Cubist nature (which also played with time compression.) Perhaps most of all, I liked the sense of strangeness in the familiar; I had the feeling that I was searching for my home, but I didn’t know where to find it. The scrambled station signs taunted me. These are the things I sought to bring out in my post-production treatment of them. My references were toy train sets and video game environments.
“I want the picture to feel like a hybrid of a movie, a photograph, a painting, and a deli sign. For me that is a magical place.“
Michael Sean Edwards, 2023.