Photo Project Captures People’s Reactions to Someone Falling Asleep on Them on the Subway


The New York City subway can be a cold place, metaphorically speaking. Headphones, cell phones, that one Seamless ad they’ve no doubt already read 600 times, whatever their approach, people go to great lengths to avoid communicating with the other people in the car.

So what happens when one of those people breaks, not only the unwritten rule against talking, but touching! How do people react on the subway when a complete stranger falls asleep on their shoulder?

Artist George Ferrandi set out to find the answer to this question in a simultaneously funny and touching (pun thoroughly enjoyed) photo series dubbed It Felt Like I Knew You…


With the help of Angela Gilland, the duo took to the NYC Subway armed with an iPhone and the goal of capturing some potentially very awkward interactions. Here’s how Ferrandi contextualizes the images:

I ride the NYC subway trains, usually in the evening when the seats are full. I focus on the shape of the space between the person sitting next to me and myself. I attempt to mentally and emotionally re-sculpt that space. In my mind, I reshape it — from the stiff and guarded space between strangers to the soft and yielding space between friends. I direct all my energy to this space between us. When the space palpably changes, and I completely feel like the stranger sitting next to me is my friend, I rest my head on that person’s shoulder… and see what happens.

All of the images below are frames pulled from iPhone videos shot by Gilland, and show each interaction from start to finish:







To see more of Ferrandi’s work, or if you’d like to keep up with this ongoing project, head over to her website by clicking here.

(via Lost at E Minor)

Image credits: Stills from iPhone video shot by Angela Gilland for George Ferrandi, and used with permission

  • David Vaughn

    Haha that’s kind of funny. I wish there was a video, though. :P

  • Eden Wong

    I did the identical project 20+ years ago in art school and even then I stole the idea from someone else…

  • Goldengirl Layla

    touching another person without permission…. Today? Forget this project or you might be sued or prosecuted for assault.

  • slyman

    that smiling girl is so cute o my goodness

  • Peter Croft

    I’m a sleep apnea sufferer and in 2000 before I started using CPAP, I did this many times in buses and trains in Perth, Sydney and Singapore. I wasn’t aware of it as I could fall asleep in a second, even while driving, especially while stopped at the lights. Luckily no-one minded and there were no consequences. I would wake up instantly because my neck hurt and find people smiling and staring at me.
    It’s fixed now. I started using CPAP later that year and the problem is solved. But be aware that the person whose head is on your shoulder might be a sleep apnea sufferer. Be kind.

  • Michał Jaszewski

    Wasn’t there a video of someone “falling asleep” on peoples’ shoulders like half a year ago?

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  • Mike

    Haha, this is Awesome! Love the concept!

  • dpanch_89

    Now try it in the London Underground… I DARE YOU!

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