Support Skift’s Independent JournalismMake a Contribution Now
The first underground subway line in New York City opened in 1904. One year later, film director G.W. Bitzer organized a short film to be taped in the underground tunnels. The cameras followed a subway car from 14th Street at Union Square to the old Grand Central Station.
One hundred and eight years later, filmmaker Jeff Scher is still entranced with the underground beast. Armed with only an iPhone, Scher attempts to capture beauty he sees among the old rails, dirty platforms, and surprising odors.
He describes New York City’s underworld on The New York Times as follows:
The minute the train slides out of the station you’re plunged into a nocturnal ballet of continuously converging parallel lines of rails, shimmering lights and endless tunnel. There is an organic musicality in the rhythms of our vast subterranean labyrinth.
The comparison between the two video is shocking — both in their similarities and differences.
In the 1905 video, you can see New Yorkers waiting for the train in suits, top hats, and gowns. The best view of people on a platform starts at 4:23 and goes until the end. You can also see platform stops from 0:02 to 0:14, 1:35 to 1:43, and 2:18 to 2:24.
Scher’s 4-minute video entitled Tunnel Vision is a technicolor film that shows the E train, riders waiting on the platform, and the tunnel’s bright lights. The subway car is captured from different angles and overlays images for a psychedelic result. Viewers can compare the riders from 1905 to those in 2013 by forwarding to the 1:36 mark.
New York Subway (1905)
New York Subway (2013)