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People-Watching Photos of Commuters on the Staten Island Ferry

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School of Visual Arts photography student Michael Schmidt has been working on a series that documents the commuters who ride the Staten Island Ferry that shuttles people between Staten Island and Manhattan. It’s an environment in which people are mostly stationary and often lost in their thoughts or absorbed in the things being displayed on their smartphones.

The ferry began operation in 1817 and runs from St. George, Staten Island to The battery in Lower Manhattan. It carries 75,000 passengers each day, 24 hours every day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It’s a free public service, so people of all walks of life are seen on the vessels. For a people-watching enthusiast like Schmidt, it’s an ideal environment for observing with the eyes and capturing with the camera. He writes,

I have always been interested in people watching. I like to analyze others and try to understand them, or what it might be like to step into their shoes and have a glimpse into what their world is like. There is a diverse range of people who commute on the ferry including doctors, lawyers, city workers, students, tourists, the homeless and those who are just looking for a short romantic journey.

I became interested in making photographs on the ferry because it is an integral part of my life. I am of the many passengers who float across the New York harbor to reach my destination. My school is my destination, a place where I focus on my dreams and share common interests with my peers. A place to talk about art and create relationships. Although not all of our destinations are the same, we share this time together. Some use this time to read a book or catch up on lost sleep while for others it’s an adventure.

Here are some of the photographs in the series so far:

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You can find more photos from this series over on Schmidt’s website.


Image credits: Photographs by Michael Schmidt and used with permission