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Paul Raphaelson –Sub/Culture


The subway’s familiar Brutalism has been giving way to stainless steel and layers of angled glass. I miss much of the character that’s been polished away, but find myself captivated by the view. Reflections from inside and out absorb passengers in a mirage of ghosts and fragments. Meanwhile, faces suggest retreat to a privacy far from the chaos all around.

Photographers since Walker Evans have shown us private moments on crowded trains. But I had never seen them like this—abstracted from the world, entangled with one another, merged with the surfaces of landscape and machine. I’m intrigued by our ability to invent a sense of privacy and autonomy in these spaces that seem designed to commodify us. The irony of our solitude among others, whether it feels dark or hopeful, has found a perfect frame in the subway’s collage of reflections and refractions.

This project has become an exploration of individuality and public space, the ambiguity of photographed surfaces, visual disorientation, and the fragmentation of form. In these terms, the world underground appears as a microcosm of the world above.

Paul Raphaelson

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