If you live and work in the city – or live in the city and work on the outskirts – or vice versa, you have commuter stories. Or, put in other words, if the city is part of your commute, then your commute is more of an event than routine. You know that nothing is truly as predictable as it seems and that anything (but most likely some presidential shenanigans) could throw your whole morning into a tizzy. So, sometimes commuting can feel like more of an obstacle than anything else. And spilling your coffee one morning might seem like a total bummer, or missing your train could make you spew a few choice curse words…but could there be beauty in the commute, too?
At least one photographer seems to think so. Peter Funch is a Danish photographer with massive creative vision for innovative projects and the patience to pull off ideas that take, well…time. One of his latest projects was just released in book form, titled 42nd and Vanderbilt and put out by TBW Books. The book, comprised of photographs, entails nine years worth of pictures captured detailing the rituals of strangers on their way to work, passing by the same street corner over that time period.
Funch would station himself on the same street corner, daily, between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM and snap photographs of the crowds rolling by on there way to and from work, more than likely. His go-to spot was right outside of New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and when he pivoted to start editing the photos he had caught, he found reoccurring people – sightings of the same everyday characters, going about their lives years apart. As described in Fast CO:
“In the book, these portraits are arranged side-by-side. One man takes a drag from his cigarette at the same moment; one man spits into the same trash can on the corner on different days; others are wearing different clothes but have the same – often angst-ridden – facial expressions. One woman looks like she’s dreading the day ahead, again and again. Funch noticed that he would catch some people walking near each other at the same time every day – but they never seemed to meet or notice. ‘It was fascinating to see that connectivity between people,’ he says. ‘They have no idea.’”
Reactions to the body of work and the motonoty of some people having the same routine over the course of nine years (!) has been mixed, with some saying that it all seems kind of sad. I see it from a different perspective, though. I mean, how cool is it, that in the repetitive day-to-day, that can sometimes seem like such a grind, comes art?
You might not think your resting you-know-what face, or puff of cigarette smoke, or confident strut that you have alongside your commuting friends could ever more than be a blip on the radar of the universe, and in comes some brilliant photographer, making a – quite interesting – spectacle out of it. Now, that’s rad.
So, next time you’re huffing and puffing about the metro running behind, or narrowly missing a fender bender because you were glancing at your phone (ugh, you’ve GOT to stop doing that), or running late to a meeting and wishing you had not worn a white shirt on the same day that you ordered spaghetti for lunch (and not eaten it all), maybe you can take on a new perspective. Kodak moment, anyone?