Metro Life

A photo essay

Metro Life is a photo essay that documents public transportation in Minneapolis. I wanted to observe a part of everyday life that most don’t. The culture, the repetitiveness, the sounds, smells and conversations; people’s reliance on it, and the role it plays in everyone’s lives. Simple interactions both verbal and nonverbal became intriguing. Did people read? Were their hands folded in their laps or intertwined with their partners? Did a teenager give up his or her seat for a senior citizen? ¶ I wanted to document the motion of public transportation: buses and cars passing, hands pulling yellow wires requesting stops, the doors opening and closing. Public transportation may serve as a means to work, or more freedom for teenagers or even a place for someone homeless to find warmth — it is something we all rely on. ¶ I decided to have a collaboration of both abstract and informative photographs. I began to previsualize what type of shots I wanted, and I decided to take all the photographs on the bus at waist level, without looking through the viewfinder. I wanted my subjects to be as unaware of the camera’s presence as possible. I spent a little more than two weeks shooting and retrieving audio. In an attempt to get a good variety of views, I shot during rush hour, early in the morning, and late at night. I often rode the bus straight through its route, observing people and their interactions. As I was observing, I found myself being let in to a part of people’s lives, whether it was a field trip to the art museum, or the aroma of a hot cup of coffee intended as a wake-up for the long day ahead. ¶ Metro Life has turned into a life-long project for me. I will continue to document public transportation in different cities, even countries. It is a subject that has become fascinating to me.

— Allison Shanahan interned for the Journals the fall of 2007.