Urban Romance: Photographer Matt Weber captures decades of love on the subway
Subway Kiss #1 by Matt Weber
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Matt Weber shares his “Urban Romance” series. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
A born-and-bred Upper West Sider, photographer Matt Weber has been watching New York all his life, taking pictures of everything he can. Over the years, he accumulated many photos of love, or at least, public displays of affection. Though people are constantly kissing all over the world, there’s something especially gutsy, memorable, and nonchalantly confident in a subway kiss. For many, a quick peck or a full-on makeout session is among the least desirable things when you’re being crushed like a sardine, underground, in a moving metal tube. Yet, New Yorkers do it constantly – a documented fact.
Just in time for the most romantic day of the year, we had a chance to talk with Matt Weber about his photography, his “Urban Romance” series, and how New York has changed since he started capturing it.
What inspired you to photograph your Urban Romance series?
The series is just an accumulation of images taken over the past 30 years. I like photographing happiness, sadness, and action.
What emotions do you find most readily photographable in New York?
Mostly love and hate. I try to photograph anything that might be a record worth looking at in 20 or 30 years.
Do you feel the subways, as well as the rest of the city, have become less photogenic as New York gentrifies?
I was a graffiti artist as a teen and when I began photographing New York I overlooked the subway at first. I felt I had been there and done that. That was a huge mistake. The interest in 1980s graffiti is overwhelming and I have very few photos of it. I didn’t think it was going to be so important, and I wish I had taken more pictures of the subway in its heyday. The clean trains of today are certainly less interesting, but the people riding them can still do some very wild stuff.
Regarding images like Bodega Fight – do you get the same, if any, rush from photographing action shots as you do from photographing the subway, which in a sense is a perpetually active scene?
A fist fight is usually pretty short in duration, and considering that people usually don’t want to be photographed while assaulting someone, I have to be very careful not to become a victim. I’m too old to fight some jacked up younger guy or gal, so I’m careful to not be noticed. It’s the only time I might “shoot from the hip.” If I’m lucky to get a great picture of a fight, it’s pretty special.
What do you like to shoot these days?
I still shoot Coney Island during the summer, and the subways are unavoidable, so I get a few snaps here and there. Slowly but surely all of the subjects I have photographed continue to accrue, and I basically leave my house with few expectations and the “street” offers its wealth of possible images to me each day. I just have to be quick, or I’ll miss the day’s best shot, and that will bother me for longer than it should!
What’s your favorite New York romance film?
That’s easy. “West Side Story” with Natalie Wood.
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All photographs © Matt Weber