My sons thought it was dirty. I agree. Compared to the sparkling trains in Tokyo and Singapore, the New York City Subways are dirty. But they’re a heck of a lot better than they used to be. How bad was it 30 years ago?
I came across this wonderful Time.com article with accompanying photographs. It’s definitely worth a look. 15 images from Photographer Chris Morris, who documented the dark days of the subway system and the city back in 1981.
New York wasn’t always the sparkling and vibrant metropolis that it is now. Back in the early 80’s, NYC was only a hand full of years out of near bankruptcy. The dirty, graffiti covered subways are what I remember as I commuted for hours everyday to High School. Trains often broke down and were late. The heater was sometimes on full bast in the summer. Normal levels of graffiti withdrew into the background, becoming part of the fabric of everyday city life. Only exceptional levels of defacement raised eyebrows. I remember one day, the entire inside of a subway car was spray painted in a single act of vandalism, the windows, the seats and the floor.
I remember meeting Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angles that patrolled the subways. Imagine that, an unarmed citizen activist group to help protect the general public. That was the state of NYC at the time. Photograph 10 features a picture of this group.
People may now glorify graffiti as an art form. To me it’s just a form of public defacement. My opinion, no doubt, colored by my daily commute through people’s defiant self-expression recast as art expression. But the grittiness of the city is burned in my psyche. I am a product of the city. Even living in Austin, and in the suburbs for 20+ years, the city calls. I’m sure that’s part my motivation to create Urban Landscapes — why I return over and over to the dirty 6th Street in Austin.
Please support this blog by clicking on my Amazon Link before buying anything.