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Marco Simola


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Metropolitan (Subway): “means of transportation, urban, on rails, characteristic of big cities; it joins the urban center with the suburbs and lies on a site that is proper to it, generally underground, on the ground or on an elevated surface”. (definition).

I define it as a place.

A place where people, all people without distinction, the poor and the rich, the doctor and the sick, the employee and the laborer, the commuter and the tourist, he who eats three times a day and he who eats every three days, he who takes a cruise across the Mediterranean and he who crosses in the hope of reaching Lampedusa (Italy’s southernmost island) meet and walk by each other several times a day, they brush past each other, sometimes talk to each other, sometimes say hello, sometimes recognize each other, other times ignore each other, run into each other, smell each other, like each other or disgust each other, fall in love with each other or break away from each other.

In this place where some are born and some die, some laugh while some cry, some play an instrument and others sleep. Here, life flows under artificial light, it flows fast.

Because they all have somewhere to go to, a final destination …. and, curiously, are always running late.



I’m Italian, 44 years old, and I’m based in Lima, Peru, since 2007.

I made these images between 2003 and 2005 in a period where I was working in Milan, and every day of the week I spent around 40 minutes on the tube in the morning and other 40 in the evening. After a while I noticed that people in the metro look different than when they are outside of it. In the metro many of the passengers seem to be bored, sad and afraid, looking at empty space in a sort of open eyes dream. I tried to catch the expressions, the movements, the thoughts of these persons. I’ve organized the presentation like a subway travel, from the entrance on the metro, the waiting of the train, the transportation, the stops, the arrival and the way out.

These photos where first published in October 2006 at Spazio 10 Gallery in Ivrea, Italy during a personal exhibition.


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Marco Simola


29 thoughts on “marco simola – metro”

  1. Pingback: marco simola – metro | burn magazine | The Click

  2. hey Marco,

    congratulations for having your work up on Burn! Good on you.

    i like some of the images, but overall, the essay lacks something. when i think of really strong subway work, i think Bruce Davidson right away…and that work is pretty awesome!…stylistically and contextually…late 70’s, early 80’s NYC – subway was a dangerous place and had some kinda interesting cache to it…

    I’d love to see more of a vision on this one!

    Thanks for showing,



  3. Nice images and congratulations. You caught the universal Metro well – but there is one thing that bothers me and maybe it is petty. In 2008, I spent five days in NYC and traveled on the subway frequently and from that short time period, I could put up a photo spread at least as strong as this one. So, from one who has put so much time into it as you have, I want to see something that goes deeper than my own limited experience.

    On the other hand, maybe that’s just what subway is, be it in Italy, London, DC or NYC – and one day, five days, ten days, 100 days, a 1000 – it is all basically the same.

  4. People should be banned from shooting in subways / metros / undergrounds :o)
    Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson, Christophe Agou, David Solomons, etc. have already put a few nails on the coffin, unless the work is really astounding. I mean, it is about rivalled by the Caribbean or famine!

  5. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    This is a polite little essay, I must say.

    The images reflect the way in which you made them which is ‘in passing’ and feel like you have invested very little of yourself personally or creatively and with the exception of some clever framing in a few and the organizational device of ‘a journey’, they hardly reflect the thoughts put down in your statement.

    I must agree, this is well travelled territory as a theme and if you are going to go there, you need to give us something more than this by taking yourself somewhere you’ve never been. To and fro from your home to your job and snapping along the way, which this work simply feels and looks like, simply isn’t enough.

  6. The opening shot is BEAUTIFUL!!!
    your story,
    very literal..
    straight forward…
    would be interesting to do a multi media piece with these images…
    maybe give it more depth…
    lovely imagery,
    story telling…

  7. Luzz. Im sure David has good reasons why, he does like to mix it up a bit..keep everyone on the backfoot and all that.
    But like others I am struggling to get past the surface of this, and yet cannot.


  8. luzz
    road trips is still here – it is under the section named ¨dialogue¨ over there >>>>>

    metro.. it´s a very established subject.. a student staple, as it were.

    i really like a number of the more atmospheric individual images and think that taken as part of a broader study of ¨city life¨ they would work extremely well.. perhaps that is where the project needs to evolve to – beyond the underground?

    the literal approach of this essay is okay – perhaps a few of the photos don´t belong.. still, it´s difficult to get the vibe of the crowded environment.. the stress of the travel.. sweat briefcases n tears.

  9. i’d thank all of you for your comments. for negative and positive. thanks to all.
    i know that more can be added to this theme and that other have already developed with better results (not always).
    so, i really appreciate all your suggestions, comments, ideas and the links of kenneth. the series of leveckis are really good.
    from my side, i’m really happy to see my work published here, on burn.
    buona vita a tutti.

  10. Hi Marco..

    you seem to have a real nack in photographing people candidly. I’ve also photographed in trains and its very difficult. The only thing I could of suggested was to edit some of the images which are that similar to each other. Thats difficult because each image is as good as each other.

    well done. looks good.

  11. Hey Marco, I feel you have taken good photographs and that the essay captures the experience of a typical subway well. However, perhaps an essay such as this could somehow go further and impart more on the viewer. Above posters are correct in underscoring the bar is set quite high when it comes to photographing subways which, together with the fact that this was a long-term project, creates high expectations.

    Best regards

    /// Gustav

  12. Hi All.
    Hi Marco!
    If you were considering the dullness of everyday life, you found it. This is a very linear narrative, no intrigue whatsoever, and definitely no climax. It’s an everyday travel, seen through your lens very passively. A photograph (or series) can be an icon of an event, a theme, or a person (all of the subway photos); generally accepted (concept), a photograph is NOT the subject in front of the lens; it is in fact an evocation of it. Your photos seem to contradict this, as they ARE in fact all individual persons, and not icons of a collective imaginary of the subway.
    In sum, I think it is a benefit that NO strong icons were used; the somewhat natural tone range really gets us in the dullness of YOUR travel, and NO other. All the other photos belong in the collective imaginary! These are YOURS. (?). out.

  13. Hi all. This theme reminds me of a 1994 film – “ChungKing Express”. Check out the beautifully edited trailer on you tube… A discussion of stills and video would be interesting for the next move on photography (?). over.

  14. I’ve been reviewing my comments and those of all others. I feel that my contribution may be misunderstood. I do NOT mean to “bash” your essay. What I mean is that you’ve successfully captured the dull routine of daily travel, and that is fantastic.
    If I may I’ll add a reference to the concept of non-places, as places of transition, of travel, with short term connection. I think there are loads of stories to be told, some seem vacant in a good way, like I see yours, and some may be raw and expressive like the ones Kenneth pointed out.
    Keep up. Best wishes.

  15. Hi Marco,

    another photographer you might be interested in Marco Pesaresi, published a book called Underground, travels on the global metro. I have it. Covers this subject really well.

    Best, Valery Rizzo

  16. Hi Rodolfo, thanks for your suggestion.
    Francesco is a friend of mine since many many years. I already knew this work of Francesco.
    It is more about movement in general, not only about Metro. It is a great work. I don’t like to make comparisons.

  17. Hola Marco!

    Congratulations!. I’ve just seen your photo essay.
    I see an straightforward portrait of daily life and you have succeed in capturing a bitter feeling of detachment which is what you felt while observing those people based on your comments –open eyes dream–. I think that your images show a honest work. Although almost unavoidable, we shouldn’t try to find comparisons because it undermines your creative criteria. We should focus on your work to dig deeper instead.
    Just as reflection….as other posters mentioned, Subway, trains and stations are indeed a very established subject. But this is precisely a good reason for trying to see more or find a complete different approach. I think that the process is very important. In your case you took these pictures during your daily trips to work, which means that as passenger you are here part of the flow, dictated by space and time, another passenger with destination and timetable. I wonder how would your work look like if you were able to spend the whole day there, riding randomly, liberated from travel patterns. You would not be longer part of that flow, because you are not travelling to a certain destination. You are there just to explore. You probably would be able to put yourself in a different perspective as a pure observer, immerse yourself into that “underground” reality as photographer and perhaps see other things. When you spend longer in places of transience, your vision may then change and “doors of perception” might start opening up…

    With best wishes

  18. LUZZ…

    i do like to mix it up as John says…not everything i publish here is intended to “rock your socks” but to give various insights as to what young photographers are doing or what some iconics have mastered…not all of it moves everyone….every once in awhile someone says they miss Road Trips…with Road Trips there was almost no viewing of the work of other photographers…it was more my personal diary and blog…we have considered having Road Trips as a larger section of Burn..would that appeal??

  19. Hi Marco. I was a bit worried about my post. As they say: “those who seek to intervene cannot faithfully record” and all… Wiki again… Loads of sides to a story… All the best.

  20. I’m not crazy for this essay either: I lived in Milan many years and feel it does not catch the spirit. Though the photographer is good enough, I don’t like the way the BW was treated and think the photographic approach is a bit too simple, lacking in fantasy and somewhat amateurish in some pictures.

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