Underground New York Public Library

The Underground New York Public Library is a visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.
This project is not affiliated with The New York Public Library


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UNYPL in 2012: The Regulars

It’s about to be a full year that I’ve been blogging the Underground Library. It’s been a year of so many discoveries and experiences. One discovery I had may seem plain, but it felt profound to experience it through photography. I discovered that a reader is… a Reader. In looking for people who were reading, I found that they were there as a kind. Books weren’t just an item they had with them. They were indications of a larger relationship that defined them. When I posted a reader whom I had photographed twice, someone commented that it was like a love story. I like that and I agree. Readers are in love with the world around them, and their relationship with the books that reveal it to them is an enduring one. 

Here are four readers I happened to see twice over the course of the year. Regulars of the Underground Library. From top to bottom.

  1. When I first saw him, he had started reading “New York,” by Edward Rutherfurd. More than a month later, I saw him again when he was almost done with it.  
  2. I saw her in the summer, when she was reading "Consider the Lobster and Other Essays," by David Foster Wallace. On a recent cold morning I saw her again, still with David Foster Wallace, but this time reading his ”The Broom of the System.” 
  3. One of the first readers I photographed, I loved his hat and glasses. Last year he was reading ‎”Killing Time: The First Full Investigation into the Unsolved Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman”, by Donald Freed. Eleven months later, I recognized him because of his hat and glasses. I wasn’t sure why I recognized him, until sure enough, he took a book out of his bag. This time he was reading ”Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon,” by Aram Goudsouzian
  4. I first saw him late one night, when I was tired and on my way home. But Jack London wasn’t yet in the Underground Library, so I took my camera out and photographed him. Early in the morning a month later, I was tired again when I saw him again, enjoying another story in ”To Build a Fire and Other Stories,” by Jack London.

"Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon," by Aram Goudsouzian

Borrow I Read

He was walking along the platform and I thought he looked familiar. I wondered if I knew him from somewhere, or if I had photographed him before. As if to answer me, he took a book out of his bag and started reading. Here he is, last year

She’s reading "The Broom of the System," by David Foster WallaceHe’s reading "The Man Who Went Up in Smoke," by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

The Broom of the System: Borrow I Read

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke: Borrow I Read

"New York," by Edward Rutherfurd

Read New York

I photographed him first in the middle of May. He was still in the beginning of the book then, as the picture shows. I was happy to see him again, to see that he was reaching the end of it. I photographed him again. Then I sat there realizing how I had a little collection of pictures of him now. I wanted to tell him but I worried about how to say it. He happened to look up with a smile, so I just told him. He said he was aware of me when I photographed him that other time, and he was delighted by the chance that I encountered him again. He was very interested in this project and he continued on to express how he felt about the subways in general. “I love it here,” he said. “Even when I’m not coming from or going to work, it’s great to be here.” “There’s a stillness here,” he said. “The atmosphere is just great.” I completely agree with him, and he’s a great part of what makes it so.  

"Consider the Lobster and Other Essays," by David Foster Wallace 

Read Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

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