Photos from NYC subways in the 1980s


As a Midwesterner who didn't get a chance to fall in love with New York City subways until 2002, it's fascinating to take a trip back to the system's not-so-glory days, courtesy a collection of 1980s-era photos on Sean Kernick's 2 4 Flinching blog.

I've seen historical photos of the NYC subways before, but, somehow, the other picture collections seem to skip over this period in the subway's past. What I love best about these images—taken by photographers Bruce Davidson, John F. Conn, Jamel Shabazz and Martha Cooper—is the fact that they are documenting a full world. Sure, on these graffiti-covered and trash-strewn subways, guns got pointed at heads and white yuppies looked terrified. But this was also a system that took little girls to the beach, and suit-wearing men and women to the office.

The photos give you an unflinching sense of what these systems were like at a time when the city had basically left them to rot, but without creating a caricature that distracts from the humanity of the people involved (even the ones who contributed to the rotting). Good stuff.

2 4 Flinching: Subway, lifeblood

Photo taken by Martha Cooper.