Stunning Vintage Photos That Capture New York’s Subway Since The ’80s

The Travelers. Brooklyn. Early 1980’s

Legendary New York-based fashion, documentary and street photographer Jamel Shabazz has been scanning the scenes of New York City for about 40 years now, reflecting its lifestyles, moods, fashions, and social struggles. Jamel Shabazz’s work goes far beyond photography, it is pure sociological documentation which has immortalized decades of New York City’s culture.

In the early ’80s, Shabazz borrowed his mother’s inexpensive point and shoot camera, and with just the basic knowledge of the craft he learned from his professional photographer father, started his photographic journey beginning with close friends and schoolmates. He ended up making the Big Apple his set, telling honest and uncovered stories through authentic images.

What better way to capture the city’s vibrancy and diversity than going where nationalities, cultures, and personalities meet, the city’s lifeline – the metro.

“The overwhelming majority of subjects I photographed have been complete strangers who I would meet during my many expeditions on the train. I focused my lens on everything from students, police officers, the homeless, entertainers, and everyday people going about their business of the day,” Jamel Shabazz told Bored Panda.

In celebration of his work, the Galerie Bene Taschen in Cologne (Germany) will be hosting his work ‘City Metro, an exploration of New York City’s transit system through the eyes of Shabazz’ until February 2, 2019. The exhibition contains 30 photographs that portray his incredible talent to integrate himself into urban life and capture its unfiltered spirit.

“What I like most about the photo shoots, is meeting new friends and freezing historic and meaningful moments in time. So many of the people I photographed 30-40 years ago may have initially been unfamiliar to me, but as time would pass many of them became close friends, some even became love interests,“ said Shabazz.

More: Jamel Shabazz, Instagram h/t: boredpanda

“The Fox & The Wolf.” On the Manhattan bound F train. Early 2000’s.

“Empathy.” From my on going subway series. 1980

Smiles. East Flatbush, Brooklyn. 1982.

“Sugar & Spice.” From my NY Underground series.

“The dream girls.“ On the Brooklyn bound J train. 2000.

A time before Starbucks. On the Uptown # 2 train out of Brownsville, Brooklyn. Early 1980’s.

Rush hour on the Brooklyn bound J train. Mid 1990’s.

Old School Love. On the uptown D train out of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Early 80’s.

Tougher Than Leather. On the uptown #2 train. Out of Brownsville, Brooklyn. 1980

In a B Boy state of mind. Queens Plaza train station. Circa 1985.

Saturday night live. On the Uptown #2 train. Flatbush, Brooklyn. Early 1990’s.

“Home Girls.” NYC. Early 80’s.

Stop and Frisk. Harlem, NYC. Early 80’s.

“Holding on.” On the F train. NYC. Mid 1980’s.

“Rolling solo.” On the uptown F train, Delancey street station. Mid 1980’s. NYC.

Sofia. On the uptown #4 train. Brooklyn. 1981.

The Wisdom bodies. Brooklyn. Early 1980’s

“Ernest.” Utica ave and Eastern Parkway train station on the # 2 & 5 line. 1980

Straight out of Brownsville. On the uptown number 2 train. In a time before crack.

Straight out of Brooklyn. In a time before crack. Dekalb ave train station. Downtown, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Queens. On the uptown #2 train. Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Early 80’s.

Early morning commute. Brooklyn, NY. 1982

Warriors on the path. On the uptown # 2 train. Utica and Eastern Parkway station. Brooklyn.

Kisha & Aicha, with @elvisnasco on the pull ups. On the uptown # 6 train in SoHo. 2000. Styled by Nikko.

Andrew, Anthony and Carlos/ The 3 Kings. On the Uptown # 6 train. SoHo, NYC. Styled by Nikko. The Remix. 2000.

The lone rider. On the uptown # 2 train straight out of Brownsville. BK, early 1980’s.

Wisdom. On the uptown # 2 train out of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Late 1980’s.

Ladies of the 80’s.

Style & Flava. On the Uptown # 2 train out of Brownsville, Brooklyn. In a time before crack.

Young Queen. Atlantic ave train station in Brooklyn. 1982.

“The window view.” IRT uptown train. 1980.

“Monday morning rush hour.” Franklin ave subway station, on the Uptown number 4 train. Brooklyn, NY. 1980.

Girls night out. Flatbush, Brooklyn. 1982.

A New York state of mind. On the F train line. Smith and 9th street station. Brooklyn. 1980.

Best Friends. On the Queens bound J train in Lower Manhattan. 1992.

Friendship. On the Manhattan bound D train out of Flatbush, Brooklyn. 1982.

The travelers. 1980. Flatbush, Brooklyn. B-35 Bus via Church Ave.

Partners. On the Uptown 2 train, Utica Ave. 1980.

“Malika.” Brooklyn. NY. Circa 1982

Cedric returning from a mission. On the downtown 5 train to Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY. 1982. From my subway series. Made with a Canon AE 1.

Couple on the Uptown IRT. 1980. Crown Heights.

The Observer. On the B35 bus. Church and Flatbush Ave. 1980.

Daddy’s little girls. On the B17 bus, Eastern Parkway and Utica Ave. Brooklyn. 1980.

“Pain, struggle and sacrifice.” Coney Island, Brooklyn. 1992. This was a very difficult moment to record, however I felt the need to capture it, to shine light on a situation that so many are faced with each day.

Love is the message. On the uptown # 2 train. Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. In a time before crack.

“Jeff.” Straight out of Brooklyn. 1985.

Going through some old negatives and came upon this old classic. The trains back in the days were no joke. This was taken during the wee hours in the morning on the Downtown # 2 train heading to New Lots Ave in East New York. 1980.

All Ears, NYC 1980

Rush Hour, NYC 1988

Fly Girl, NYC 2002

A Frozen Moment, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC

Soros For Life, Crown Heigths, Brooklyn, NYC 1981

Twin 1 & Twin 2, Brooklyn, NYC 1980

The Righteous Brothers, NYC 1981

The Last Look, NYC 1980

Tougher Than Leather, Brooklyn,NYC 1980

Young Girl, Brooklyn, NYC 1980

If It Concerns You, Brooklyn NYC 1980

Caught In Between, NYC 2000

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