Newcomers often see things with fresher eyes than longtime residents. So, as a transplant to New York, Israeli photographer Natan Dvir was primed to recognize the particular interplay between person and environment that is embedded in America’s most populous and crowded city. “I have always felt the lack of communication here,” he says. “It was clear to me from the first picture I took that there was a disconnection between people.”
But even amidst this isolation, Dvir’s acute senses picked up on a different kind of interaction: that between his subjects and the constructed space around them. “The connection of the architecture to the psychology of the city really resonated with me. Seeing that manifest itself in my pictures clicked on every level.”
Dvir’s series “Platforms” explores the warren-like subterranean world of New York’s subway system. Focusing, in particular, on the architecture of the subway and the relationships between the commuters who pass through it, the series highlights the seclusion that often defines the experience of people in a city of 8.5 million. The characters in his photographs occupy the same physical space, the same photographic frame, and yet they’re separated by the heavy black bars of the tunnel’s structure—a firm reminder that despite the frenetic pace of New York and its vibrant streets, many of the city’s residents feel painfully alone.
Born and raised in Israel, Dvir was used to a different way of relating to his surroundings: “In Israel, everyone touches each other,” he noted. “We’re tactile and like to be involved.” Curious about this unfamiliar form of interaction, Dvir took out his camera and began to shoot.
In Cortland St, 4:52pm, six people sit cheek-to-jowl on a bench, and yet the viewer does not perceive them as a group, but rather six individuals in uncomfortably close proximity. Dvir notes, “In New York, people talk about “personal space,” and this is really evident when you’re riding the subway. To me, personal space is a foreign concept, and something I find incredibly interesting from a visual perspective.”
Arranging his images in tripartite compositions, like filmstrips, Dvir cues the viewer to search for multiple narratives in each frame. With his deliberately positioned camera, Dvir primes us to examine the human interactions—or lack thereof—in his shots. Observing from afar, the viewer can safely conjure entire stories about the subjects in each frame. Says Dvir, “The platform becomes a stage where ‘actors’ take their temporary place until the train passes and invites the following ‘act.’”