Subway Musicians

The idea for this project came to me after traveling the subways of Boston for almost a year to get to and from my new job downtown. You can’t really travel the subway system without encountering a musician. You can find subway musicians in just about any subway system in the world (including Boston) and while the quality, talent, and skill varies widely, for me the musicians are a diversion from the routine of traveling from one place to another where I can listen for a few moments while waiting for a train and then leave a few dollars behind as a way of saying thank you. I didn’t really act on the idea for the project though until almost two years later when I was searching for my next project and I realized it had been staring me in the face for three whole years!

I think the fact that I put off doing this project for so long is probably a reflection of the fact that I’m relatively shy when it comes to photographing strangers. Maybe it’s a New England trait, but I feel most people prefer not to engage with strangers (particularly one carrying a camera). This is ironic given that most of the photography that I do today (social documentary) is entirely of and about people. Although many of the musicians in the photos are passing acquaintances (some just giving me a simple nod when I asked them if I could make a photograph . . . I always ask) I’ve gotten to know several musicians by name.

For me, the camera has become a way by which I can engage with others, a kind of excuse to get know someone, a stranger, and sometimes the stranger becomes a friend.