Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education


An interview with a photographer about his unflattering pictures of train riders in Tokyo's crowded subway.
October 21, 2016, 9am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

In his series called "Tokyo Compression," Michael Wolf, took photos of Japanese commuters on crowded trains. According to an interview with Mr. Wolf by CNN's Zahra Jamshed, "Wolf, who lives in Hong Kong, often uses photography to critique the harsh living conditions of large cosmopolitan cities."

"These people are squeezed against the back walls as more and more people are shoveled in. You're living life as a sardine -- it's horrific. This is not a dignified way of living. It's like looking into a ride in hell." Some train riders might point out that all commuters look uncomfortable from time to time as they ride to work. And that, while they might not love the rush hour squeeze, they might not appreciate being photographed at their worst to make the point that they are living in "hell."

But Wolf was intent on capturing the most dramatic and unflattering aspects of the commute. As he explains, "The entire process took four years because the first images I took had no condensation on the windows. The next time I was there, there was more condensation because of the change in season, so the pictures became more dismal and I was able to better express what it was that I wanted." 

In the interest of giving Mr. Wolf the benefit of the doubt, he doesn't universally pity all mass transit commuters, later in the interview he allows that, "there are cities around the world that are planned more sensibly." That's almost certainly true, though it's funny to read it in the same outlet which ranked Tokyo's metro system among the 10 best in the world.

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 in CNN
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email