Every day, approximately seven million people journey through the underworld of New York City’s subway system. Along their daily commutes, some passengers stare into space, rock out on headphones, or sleep. But a special group of riders simultaneously embark on a different kind of journey — through the books they read. Ourit Ben-Haim, New Yorker and self-proclaimed street photographer, has been documenting these “Reading-Riders” since December 2011 on The Underground New York Public Library.
What inspired you to begin the UNYPL?
The first time I photographed a subway reader, I did it just out of photographic instincts. After that I felt compelled to do it again, and the photographs I collected inspired me to build a visual library. Concentrating on the Reading-Riders led me to discover layers of meaning in their presence and activity. In time I resolved to create an extensive series, in revelation, preservation, and celebration of them.