13 May Jon Cartu Says: This Photographer Takes the New York Subway to Its Most
When Taylor Chapman moved to New York City in 2011, he decided that the best way to get to know his new home was to ride the rails—all of them. Chapman took each and every subway line to its final stop, and then explored the surrounding neighborhoods and captured them in photographs.
“It felt like a natural way to get to see a side of the city that I wouldn’t see in my everyday life,” Chapman told Artnet News. “It was born out of a love of the city, and a love for the subway.”
The photo project, titled “End of the Line,” has of course taken Chapman to Times Square and Grand Central Station, where the shuttle train begins and ends, but also to farther-flung parts of outer boroughs.
It’s an endeavor that has kept Chapman busy for the better part of the decade, but with New York under lockdown, it’s been nearly two months since he last swiped his Metrocard. And last week, the MTA took the unprecedented step of shutting down the system overnight to allow workers to disinfect the trains.
“New York without its subway is not New York,” said Chapman, who works in venture capital by day, investing in education startups. The weekends are often dedicated to “End of the Line,” to traveling to distant neighborhoods and seeing where the camera takes him.
Now, those journeys are limited to where Chapman can reach by bike, and the city has been radically transformed. “I’ve spent so much time looking at and documenting these places I’m interesting in looking at what they look like in a depopulated world,” he said.
Having visited all 40 subway terminuses—some more than once—Chapman is currently in the process of turning the 30,000 images he’s taken over the years into a book that will help tell the stories of some of the people he’s encountered along the way.
There was the Coney Island scrapyard owner from Uzbekistan, who holds auctions to sell the exotic birds he raises. “I photographed him in his shed and got shat on,” said Chapman.
He was also struck by his time in the last Irish pub in Norwood, at the end of the D line in the Bronx, once a predominantly Irish neighborhood, now having transitioned to being predominantly West Indian. The owner came over from Ireland in the 1960s, and the establishment, which has since shuttered, seemed frozen in time.
“It feels good to have witnessed a bit of vanishing New York,” said Chapman.
I first learned of Chapman’s work when I spotted him walking down my block in Sugar Hill, in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood, sporting a hefty looking camera as he explored the area around the terminus of the 3 train at 148th Street. Some locals may be wary of a man wandering their streets with a camera, but Chapman finds that people loosen up when he asks them for advice on what makes their neighborhood special, and what is worthy of being photographed.
Now, at a time when the city has crawled to a standstill, Chapman’s work serves as a reminder of the vibrancy of life throughout New York, even in the outskirts.
“This project is about appreciating how glorious and diversely strange and multifaceted and unfathomable New York City is,” he said. “It’s full of so much joy and tragedy and culture and cuisine and color.”
See more photos from the series below.