Over the course of eight years, Stan Raucher spent time riding subways around the world. Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage, a book of the black and white pictures that his trips produced, is out this month from Daylight Books. Rather than focusing on the crush of crowds or the danger of crime, Raucher’s pictures treat the subway like a performance space, observing small moments of intimate drama—a couple in Mexico City bottle-feed a tiny puppy; a man in Naples leans over to smell a woman’s hair; riders in São Paolo cover their faces with their hands, in matching gestures of exhaustion. Many images feature couples who seem to be falling into or out of love—they are either deeply absorbed in each other or lost in separate private worlds. Writes Ed Kashi in an introduction to the book, “Whether in Paris, New York, London, Delhi, São Paulo, or Mexico City, [Raucher’s] sensitive eye has recorded with an athlete’s discipline and rigor the many human interactions that go unheralded, or even shunned, by most people traveling through these crowded public spaces.”
Raucher’s images also catch a touch of the local flavor of each city the metro serves. A family eat paletas on Line 8 in Mexico City, a woman reads the San Francisco Examiner on BART and a man on the subway in Manhattan reads a newspaper in Chinese. The systems in Metro range from the oldest, in London, to some of the newest, such as Delhi’s, which opened in 2002; by extension the culture of each is deeply seated or still developing. Writes Marlaine Glicksman in an essay in the book, “Each city’s metro has its own proprietary expression, its own unspoken and spoken rules: No spitting! No smoking! No man-spreading! No eye contact!”
On the metro, writes Kashi, “We inhabit a relatively small, intimate space with strangers. We bring our literal and figurative baggage there, trying to get from one point to another. Sometimes it’s for pleasurable activities, but more often than not it’s a utilitarian ride, accompanied by our anxieties, fatigue, expectations, and, at times, fears. Stan’s images reveal these qualities and something more nuanced—they allow us a glimpse into the psyches of the people involved.” As the dense urban populations that subways serve grow, Raucher’s images argue that even when someone’s elbow is poking you in the face, we’re still human.