Subway stations exist in a strange kind of suspended animation. They are places you go through rather than go to, destinations only in the sense that they are a gateway to where you want to be, rather than places you want to spend any time in. Unless of course, you are Chris Forsyth.
The young Canadian photographer is fascinated by these spaces and has spent a lot of time tracking down and photographing the surprisingly wide array of interesting and unusual metro stations to be found around the world, from his home city of Montreal to Munich, Berlin and Stockholm.
The series, which has become an online sensation, started life as a student project. Chris chose to create a set of pictures around architecture, and after spending some time scouting locations in his hometown was drawn into the subway because of the, “sheer volume and diversity of design.”
“I love exploring new places, it’s always been in my nature,” he explains. “That’s what I think has kept me going. What initially drew me in was the variety of architecture from station to station, and all the motion inherent in the spaces. It lend itself very well to photography.”
This is the secret of Chris’ success I think; that these are spaces thousands of people pass through every day, but very few people stop and actually look at their surroundings.
After a year photographing stations in Montreal, Chris used Pinterest to research other cities and avidly collected interesting images of stations wherever they may be.
“When it came down to the final decision, I chose whichever metros I had collected the most photos from. Although there are dozens and dozens of interesting metro systems around the world, being that the project is entirely self-funded, I had to select ones with a lot to photograph, not only a few interesting stations.”
When he arrives in a new city, Chris takes his time. Plugging into his favourite podcasts (Reply All, 99% Invisible and Surprisingly Awesome are among his favourites) he immerses himself in the subway system to get a feel for its particular personality.
“I’ll take the train through a few stations, taking notes on my phone of interesting stops to return to on my way back,” he says. “When I do find a station that grabs my eye, I walk around and pre-compose images with my phone: it’s a lot less intimidating and intrusive for those around me. From there, I’ll get all set up and wait for the perfect empty moment.”
This emptiness is key; devoid of people and the hustle and bustle of harried commuters, confused tourists and giddy schoolchildren, these spaces have a serene stillness.
Chris has plans to shoot in even more cities over the coming months but he admits that, at just 21, the huge popularity of this work brings pressure as well as plaudits.
“This is my first proper photo series, and that it’s been so well-received is very encouraging as well as very intimidating! I just hope that I can keep up the momentum with future projects. It’s worrying not knowing what to focus on next, but I’m sure I’ll find my calling eventually.”