The subway system in New York is the great unifier. It’s the only place in the city where people from all walks of life, with entirely different destinations, and not one word to say to one another are in a pretty intimate space. It’s not just complaining about train delays that bring people together, however. According to photographer Ourit Ben-Haim, it’s the worlds we escape to in a good book on those trains that brings us together as well.
Ben-Haim loves reading and she loves seeing others read. There’s something magical about a person engrossed in a good book. The image was inspiring enough that in 2008 Ben-Haim snapped a photo of a person reading on the subway with her cell phone camera and it spawned a project that’s been going on for years and now has a huge following of people who check daily for more. The idea is simple, but it captures so much about Ben-Haim’s subjects, and about New York itself.
Ben-Haim makes an effort to capture any and all readers she comes across. While there are trends in book types on certain trains heading to certain areas of the city, the photographer focuses not on those divides but on the sheer diversity of people and books throughout the subway. With every shot, Ben-Haim’s camera collects a book along with its owner. That means that over the years, she’s cataloged a pretty impressive underground library. The fact that Ben-Haim’s project started with photos of hardcovers and paperbacks doesn’t stop her from including readers who choose a digital format. There’s a day reserved for a snapshot of people with eReaders every week, along with some regular weekly finds. Readers even help figure out the title on obscured book covers.
There's so much more collected on The New York Underground Library. Check it out here!