April 14, 2021

NYC’s Subway Captured In “Gritty” Vintage Photos in the 70s and 80s

New York’s famous subway system has both fascinated and annoyed its users for as long as it has been in operation.  It has been the home to graffiti artists and street photographers for generations, never more so than in the 1970s and 1980s. Gritty and tinged with danger, a subway ride was always an exercise in caution. In fact, in 1979, 250 serious crimes a week were reported on the NYC subway.

This backdropmotivated Swiss photographer Willy Spiller, who was living in New York and documented the subway system for seven years starting from 1977, to create a series that tells the story of the graffiti-filled New York subway.

His book Hell on Wheels is a look inside his rich photo archive, delving into the underbelly of New York during this pivotal time. “Willy Spiller’s images are as much a visual document of this incomparable realm as they are a syncopated, colorful poem to the city of New York and its people,” shares publisher Sturm & Drang. In fact, Spiller wasn’t going on expeditions to specifically photograph the subway more than using it as a means of transport to arrive at his photo assignments. The shots are a simple byproduct of photographing while he was a passenger like everyone else.

Willy Spiller: Website

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