The runner, Santa Barbara, California, 2014
A sole runner takes over the same underpass I used as the setting of the previous image in this gallery. Only now I stand within the underpass itself. I saw her coming as she entered the tunnel, and waited for her to reach the foliage growing through the tunnelís vaulted ceiling. I fill most of the frame with a virtually empty cement foreground, stressing the distance she has yet to cover. I use the softly focused railing at right to lead the eye into the image, while the roughly textured cement wall leads us through the frame from the left. I create a scale incongruity by diminishing the size of the runner. She is small, while the hard-edged environment is vast and somewhat daunting. She comes at us from the warmth of the sun-splashed end of the tunnel crowned with greens, and now must negotiate the barren, chilly path that stretches before her.
Under US Route 101, Santa Barbara, California, 2014
This coastal freeway is the longest of any in California, linking Los Angeles to San Francisco and beyond. This overpass carries the highway over downtown Santa Barbaraís State Street. Six people are using its underpass here. I catch two of them within it, while two others approach from either end, and two more just are exiting. I made this image just as the people within the underpass stepped into a pool of light coming from an overhead vent. The rhythmic spacing of the people provides the point of my story, as well as creating the focal point of the scene. The rest of the photograph is an exercise in geometry. A massive vertical column divides my image and supports the weight of the overpass. It also separates the pair of arches that crown the scene. Meanwhile, a series of diagonal, horizontal, curving and vertical groves decorate the exterior wall of the underpass and help organize the image. Those grooves are echoed on the far right by the graceful curves of State Streetís traffic lanes carrying both the eye and traffic through the underpass.
Lonesome cowboy, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
We entered this underpass on a rainy evening, long after the workday crowds had vanished. We heard a guitar begin to play as we reached the bottom of the stairs, and saw a man incongruously dressed in black. Wearing a cowboy hat, he sits alone against a concrete wall that has been scrubbed clear of generations of handbills. I canít recall exactly what he was playing, but it seemed neither country-western or Ukrainian. He seemed very much isolated, almost imprisoned, by the vast empty underpass around him. I made this image with a 20mm wideangle focal length to intensify the scale incongruity present in the scene. It is black and white because the medium perfectly matches the content here.
Band-aid man, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
He stands in the middle of a landing leading down to an underpass. He hopes to sell band-aids and razors (a thoughtful combo) to people pouring past him from all directions. I shot down at him from the top of the stairs. While I photographed him, nobody even glanced his way. This image tells us what it must be like to be totally ignored. The underpasses in Istanbul are min-markets for the impulse buyer. At the moment nobody seems to have such impulses.
The Farewell, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
The open ends of an underpass make an ideal backlighting source. I use one here to silhouette a couple as they take leave of each other. As she holds his hand, she raises her left foot to begin the parting. The bright light around her suggests an optimistic outcome Ė we want to think this may be only a temporary good-bye. I converted the image to black and white to simplify it and make it seem more universal.
The day begins with music, Bucharest, Romania, 2009
As individuals climb out of an underpass, rising into light from the darkness, we can photograph them greeting the day with varying attitudes. This woman carries a soft drink and a pack of cigarettes in one hand, and adjusts her hair with the other, but her focus at the moment seems to be what is pouring into her ears form the two wires that hang around her head. Meanwhile, a somber face floats in the darkness only a few feet away yet a world apart.
The Flower vendor, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
I used a 22mm wideangle focal length on this image, moving in to within a few feet of the vendor, who eyes us dispassionately. I devote most of the frame to the steps leading out of the underpass and the crowd of people using it. Very few of them stop to buy flowers, yet this woman calmly holds her ground, bringing a display of natural beauty to a grim, damp passageway.
Choices, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
Using a standard 28mm wideangle focal length, I photographed the person in the foreground just as she passed me, building the image around her upcoming decision Ė which way will she go, left or right?
The figures already at the steps on each side of the image intensify that choice, asking us to guess which one she will follow. The very nature of the underpass has created a theatre for the imagination here.
Battle in the underpass, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
Some underpasses display public art, which adds an expressive dimension to them. This underpass, in Kievís park commemorating Russiaís triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II, is lined with larger than life sculptures built into the walls, and because the figures are placed within the darkness of an underpass, the light from the end of the tunnel gives them an eerily lifelike vitality. I take advantage of that light here, spot-metering the highlights, and using a 20mm wideangle lens at very close range to stretch the attacking soldiers as they lunge towards us. By converting the photo to black and white, I honor the subject itself, which is intensely monochromatic in nature.
Guards, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
A lone pigeon watches four guards emerge from an underpass housing battle sculptures commemorating Soviet victory in the Second World War. They are too young to remember that war, and seem largely concerned here with keeping warm. The darkness of the underpass embraces them as their day begins.
Rainy day, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
The underpass provides temporary shelter when it is raining, but that shelter ends where the steps begin. I photographed a number of people silhouetted against the open end of this underpass bearing umbrellas, and this image was the most expressive of them, primarily because my slow 1/15th of a second shutter speed has blurred the subject and created a sense of urgency. The walls lining the stairs of the underpass bear the pasted remnants of handbills that have been partially scraped away. The resulting colors, particularly in the rain, turn the wall into a random work of abstract art.
Descent, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
One of the most elaborate underpasses we used in Kiev was a very long series of stairs and ramps, connecting the Lavra Monastery to underground caves holding the mummified bodies of Orthodox saints. This image was made in an upper section just at the point where the underpass dips underground. I spot metered on the window so as not to blow that area of the image out. As a result, the balance of the image becomes quite dark, which lends a perfect mood to this scene. A man carrying a package is on his way down to where the mummies rest, causing us to wonder why the delivery?