For many, the daily commute in Toronto is an unequivocally mundane experience. For subway travelers, often faced with crowded trains and intermittent delays, it is easy to feel automated within the lull of the train car—a simple component of the machine that is the city. Coming from Newfoundland, where there are no subways, streetcars, or even trains, I have a fascination with the railway that is different from those who’ve experienced it their whole life. As I increasingly feel myself slipping into the routine of my Toronto commute, I will use this project as a way to respond to the mundanity of daily life.
Through time-lapse or hyper-lapse photography I will explore my personal experience of the TTC subway system. Content will range from “driver’s” perspectives from the front and rear of the trains, views of passengers, trains arriving and departing from stations, and my movement through the stations and trains themselves. Personally, I feel that time-lapse photography is particularly trendy right now, perhaps even a gimmick: a cheap trick used by amateurs as an aesthetic move to attract attention to their otherwise banal subject matter. However, there is something fascinating about watching life speed by in a way that we cannot naturally experience. In an era of ever-depreciating attention spans, maybe the time-lapse actually holds a key of sorts. Although occasionally mesmerizing, existing examples of subway time-lapse I have seen lack sustaining interest, as they are often presented in one continuous take. Using Adobe After Effects will allow me to rearrange, manipulate and reconstruct the imagery, exploring grids, reflections, looping, layering and typographic overlays. These effects will break the linear pattern of time-lapse and introduce a poetic rhythm. Additionally, audio recordings from the subway and/or music may be added to enhance the final composition.
To capture the images I will use an iPhone. While this may seem unnecessarily low-tech, I’ve made this decision for a few reasons: Firstly, it is a quotidian object. Unlike more professional cameras, the iPhone is non-threatening, inconspicuous and with me at all times. Secondly, in addition to the embedded time-lapse function there are apps such as “Hyperlapse” and “OSnap” that allow for advanced time-lapse creation. Also, I see a conceptual connection between the speed of web-based information exchange possible with a smartphone and the subterranean network of subway tunnels interconnecting the city. Furthermore, working on this project will be a break from my formal photographic practice (which usually involves research and preparation, cumbersome camera equipment, careful consideration of light and the time of day, and travel to remote locations or other cities/towns) and will allow me to explore new media and forms of representation in a relaxed manner.
Content from the development of this project will be uploaded to a blog that is a sidecar of my professional website. Due to the web-connectivity of the iPhone, it is likely that Instagram will also be used as a platform to present visual developments of this project.
In an era where notions of public and private are increasingly deconstructed through increased surveillance and monitoring, I see this project as adding to this conversation (especially since we refer to subway systems as “public transit”). Additionally, due to the project’s web presence, it will also be positioned within the ever-expanding archive of images uploaded to the web, in the end adding to the mundanity of the post-photographic condition.