Yesterday evening was the reception / opening at the New York Transit Museum for the new exhibit, The Last Day of the Myrtle Avenue El. The majority of the photographs were taken by artist Theresa King, however her artistic pieces are supplemented by historical accounts and photography, as well as signage from the El.
Several people spoke at the reception, including the artist herself. She said that her motive for taking the pictures that final day was because she loved trains. I can certainly understand that myself… if I didn’t like trains I don’t think I would be writing a blog like this. Someone, I don’t recall who, also wondered whether the young people today would look back on the trains today in the same nostalgic sentiment that they look back at the Myrtle Avenue El. From my personal experience, I think so. Ever since I was a child I rode on the Harlem Line, though of course it wasn’t until more recently that I rode it regularly to commute to work. (This month marks the end of my first year of regularly commuting by train) Maybe this is a sort of odd observation, but I don’t really adore the M7’s as much as I do the older M3’s. There is just something about the cold roboticness of the voice announcing the stops, to the high seat backs that allow you to slip into anonymity that I don’t really enjoy quite so much. On the M3, with the lower seat backs, you can see the people riding in the car. When you ride regularly you see the other regulars in the other seats, and give them a little smile. And some you even have conversations with…
Well that certainly got a tad off topic. Last night I was only briefly able to talk with the artist, and I introduced myself, but she was quite busy talking with some other people. Had I been able to talk to her, I think I would have asked about her preference for shooting photographs right now. The photos from the exhibit were taken in 1969, and obviously photographic technology has significantly improved since then. Now the majority of people, including myself, shoot digitally. The colors and graininess of the photographs taken by King are said to be a limitation of the film available at the time, but it is partially those colors and grain that heighten the nostalgic effect. And even now, there is something to be said about the color range, grain, and detail of an image taken on a roll of film that a digital camera can not really reproduce.
If you have the chance to go see the exhibit, I highly suggest it, especially if you’ve never been to the Transit Museum before. There is just something incredibly authentic about a transit museum actually being in an old, no longer used subway station. Anyways, here are some photos from last night, of the artist and the exhibit. I plan on posting some more images later in the week of the transit museum itself, and of the unexpected museum “employee” I encountered in one of the restored old subway cars.