City subway rides can feel like $2 carnivals. There’s so much to see, and often so little time to see it--crowds move as fast as colonies of ants. In a time-warping video series called Stainless, Berlin-based photographer Adam Magyar slows down the speedy city crowd. Using a customized Optronis slow-motion camera, Magyar shoots footage from arriving trains to create high-res, super-slow motion videos of people waiting on platforms in Grand Central station in New York, the Alexanderplatz station in Berlin, and the Shinjuku station in Tokyo.
The results are fantastic, turning everyday commuters into living sculptures. In Magyar’s sloth-paced world, the slightest movement seems to take on massive significance.
“To me the city is not less of a natural environment than the rainforest,” Magyar says in his artist’s statement. “In my images I 'stage' a situation where people are seen from a distance and I depict them as particles in a system. The observer of this scene is an imaginary person, looking at the whole as an outsider, as if being exempt from the laws of time.”
Magyar was born in Hungary in 1972. After dropping out of college, he worked as a graphic designer for several years. It wasn’t until his late twenties that he taught himself photography and began to travel the world. When producing Stainless, he set up a tripod on a platform at the Union Square subway station and was stopped by police and taken into an interrogation room for questioning. His high-tech scrutinizing of the subway appeared suspicious to several riders, who obeyed the “if you see something, say something” rule. Once Magyar convinced them he was an artist working on a project, the cops let him off with a $25 fine for setting up a tripod in a station.
Stainless is a stunning example of how new technologies can break down limitations in art. Just decades ago, it was impossible for the public to see such high-quality slow-motion footage. He’s following in the footsteps of Eadweard Muybridge, whose pioneering work in the late 19th century used new photographic technology to literally change how we see the world around us. In November, Magyar gave an in-depth talk at PopTech explaining the technology that goes into creating his work, which you can watch here.
Stainless lets the urban voyeur pore over every detail of his fellow commuters. Staring at people on the subway without seeming like you’re staring at them is a skill every city dweller would be wise to master, but if you’re still working on it, Magyar lets you look all you want without the inevitable awkward eye contact.
Magyar’s work will be exhibited in an exhibition at New York’s Julie Saul Gallery from February 27th to April 19th.