Street Photos of Commuters Reading on the Subway

New York-based artist and storyteller Ourit Ben-Haim’s Underground New York Public Library project first began as sketches of rough photographs of people reading on trains. The photos are unrefined and voyeuristic, like reading over a stranger’s shoulder.

But the idea was there: Ben-Haim wanted to create a simple street photography project, taken underground to the subways of New York, showing how the stories commuters read reflect their own stories.

Since the site’s launch in 2011, the Underground New York Public Library’s collection has swelled to several hundred photographs and thrives within the Tumblr community. Visitors can get involved by helping solve titles of unknown books.

Ben-Haim tells us:

I wanted to do a series on readers, and I came to realize that an extensive one can be revealing in great ways. Bringing together a population of Reading-Riders can reveal how connected our inner realities are to each other. This connection is a preoccupation of mine. The subway Riders make this possible as they are out there reading. I also loved the poetry of the context.

You can view more of her work on the Underground New York Public Library site.

Underground New York Public Library (via WSJ)

Image credits: Photographs by Ourit Ben-Haim and used with permission

  • Jake

    I was skeptical of the headline, especially the description of “unrefined and voyeuristic,” but some of these are actually pretty cool. I like the symmetry of the candid shots, the way you can read into who reads what, and it is refreshing to see folks doing something other than smart-phoning (in most cases).

  • hini

    very beautiful

  • Tzctplus -

    A mundane subject requires some special angle in order to make it interesting. I don’t see anything special in these pictures.

  • Knur

    This is boring. Watch Bruce Davidson’s “Subway” photos.


    Great idea, really enjoyed it

  • marie-pierre


  • Tamba

    So sad. People read so they won’t have to talk to each. Nice photos though.