New York 101: Sin City

“In New York, most people don’t have cars, so if you want to kill a person, you have to take the subway to their house.

And sometimes on the way, the train is delayed and you get impatient, so you have to kill someone on the subway. That’s why there are so many subway murders; no one has a car.”

—George Carlin

Secrets of the New York Subway

If you’re stuck in the New York subway—with nothing to kill but time—head over to the 14th Street, Eighth Ave station. It’s a museum of Lilliputian sculptures by Tom Otterness.

I stumbled upon them by chance on my way home from work. I had hit an all time low during my first job in New York City. Spending time staring at Otterness’s bronze statues put a smile on my face.

The sculptures depict the everyday toil of subway workers—men that build the backbone of New York City underground, but remain invisible above.

“I do public work and think about the things that we don’t talk about amongst strangers,” Otterness says about his works. He has contributed 5 times the sculptures, he was commissioned to the MTA, until his wife intervened.

Tom Otterness's bronze sculptures

The collection titled “Life Underground” will make good subject matter for your social feed. So, keep your phone Instagram ready for the sculpture of a fat guy occupying an entire seat, a gator eating a New Yorker, a public telephone that looks like a face, another face that looks like a money bank (I’ve heard New Yorkers rub it for luck) and more!

Otterness clearly enjoys dickering with officials! When I learnt that the subway police is notorious for handcuffing street photographers—I saw these pieces of art as tiny acts of rebellion brewing underground. They inspired me to take my camera out to the streets of New York, fearless in my resolve to record stories of strangers.

Tom Otterness bronze sculpture

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