Chris Maliwat describes the New York subway as the first slot in a pinball machine. “Whenever I head down there, I know it’s going to be a mini adventure, like I’m about to be launched into the world,” he says. “I saw this woman waiting at Metropolitan Avenue/Grand Street station and wondered which world she was about to shoot out into. Are there people like her where she’s going? Is she headed to her tribe? I think so. Everyone finds their tribe in New York – that’s why people come here.”
He didn’t approach her but instead surreptitiously took her photo for his Instagram page Subwaygram. “The subway is full of people on their phones and the ubiquity means mine disappears. We’re all familiar with what we do when we feel a camera pointing our way; there’s a flit in the eyes, a tightening of the body. I don’t want that. I’m not a travel photographer, a hunter out on safari; I’m a fellow passenger making this a regular part of my day,” Maliwat says.
Once he shared the photo she was quickly tagged, and reached out to him. “We had a great conversation; she said I’d captured the essence of who she is before she ‘performs’ to the world. I love to see people unmasked and exposed. The subway is such a liminal space. You go into screensaver mode before pinballing into the mayhem of the city.”