Chances are good that Michael Wolf’s series “Tokyo Compression” will make you feel better about your own commute. Made over the course of four years at Shimo-Kitazawa station in Tokyo, Wolf’s series shows men and women packed tightly on commuter trains, their faces of sometimes literally pressed against the windows. Wolf’s tightly cropped subjects return his gaze or seem lost in their own worlds. Many faces are obscured by shadow or by a glittering layer of condensation on the glass, while others glow in partial sunlight. The result is a collection of fleeting portraits that record the isolation and endurance required by modern urban life .
In an interview, Wolf describes the beginning of the project: “In 1996 I discovered a small station where you could get extremely close to the widows of the trains, since there was only one track. I took six photos there that I put in the ‘subjects to work on someday’ file. Eight years later I returned to Tokyo to explore my original idea in greater depth.” He went on to produce four editions of a book of the images, but the latest, Tokyo Compression Final Cut, co-published this year by Peperoni Books, Berlin and Asia One Publishing, Hong Kong, will be the last—in 2013, the Odakyu line, where he worked, was relocated. The series is on view at Flowers Gallery in London until July 1.