Every morning I traveled on the highly efficient Japanese subway system to reach different places I wanted to photograph in Tokyo. Then the subway itself became my location.
During rush hour the stations are packed with commuters who stand quietly in organized lines. In a single day one million passengers pass through the station of Shimbashi, a busy Tokyo neighborhood sandwiched between Ginza and Shiodome. Although a train arrives every minute, there are still not enough to transport all these passengers comfortably. Trains are packed like sardines but no one complains; there is dead silence on the platforms and in the trains.
In order to avoid accidents, special platform staff wearing white gloves make sure that the trains only depart when all doors are closed. This often involves literally pushing the commuters inside. I was photographing this when a platform supervisor came up to me. I was expecting to be moved on. However, he told me to go to another platform and wait for a particular train. “Then you can get some great pictures,” he said. “But you have to hurry, the train arrives in 21 seconds.”
I ran down the stairs and back up to the next platform, just in time to see a platform attendant start pushing people into the carriage. He noticed me but ignored me completely – a photographer’s dream.
Robert Capa once said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” That is why I always shoot with the 24 mm lens. It forces me to get close to people, and close to the action.
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