Intimate photography shows commuters shutting out their surroundings

I’ve got a pretty long commute. Every morning and evening, I sit on the 148 for over an hour as I cross London, mostly starring out of the window (or, more recently, listening to the amazing podcast Serial. Check it out, it’s about an unsolved murder case and it’s fascinating).

But I’m not alone, and no one knows this more than London-based street photographer Nick Turpin. His series ‘Through a glass darkly’ is shot from a distance with a hand-held long lens on cold winter nights, capturing the wistful looks of bus commuters. Everyone looks trapped in their thoughts and it makes me wonder what they’re thinking.

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The title is biblical:

‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known’. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Now I’m hardly a God-fearing woman, so I’m sure my interpretation of the bible is limited; but this is how I understand it in light of Turpin’s shots: sitting on the bus can make you feel like you’re ‘in the dark’ so to speak, or like no one can see you (I’ve always thought there’s a strange intimacy about how people act like no one else is on the bus or tube; doing their make up etc). Bus riders passively experience the city from a moving vessel, rather than immersing ourselves in it. But stepping off the bus and entering the city we’ve been consuming and ignoring evens both our perception of the city; and its perception of us.

To me, the photos tell a story about ignoring what’s around us and assuming it doesn’t change day-to-day, which is kinda sad if you think about it.



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