Public transport has always been a favourite place for photographers to catch subjects unaware. Nowhere else in the city do people brush up so close to one another and yet so studiously ignore each other. ‘I have always associated the underground with incredible intimacy among people, without them wanting to be intimate with each other’, Wolfgang Tillmans explains. His sensual series of close-ups on the tube was first shown in an issue of The Big Issue that he was invited to guest edit.
However, it was Walker Evans who first using a concealed camera to photograph passengers on the New York subway between 1938–41. His portraits show people lost in private thoughts while aware of being in a very public place.
In the 1970s, Cindy Sherman took a different approach. Remembering characters she has seen on buses, she impersonated each in a series of studio self-portraits. She made no attempt to present this as a documentary project – staging is made evident in every picture by the presence of the shutter release lead.