Street photographers have been captivated by the New York subway for generations, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. It was a rough and perilous ride that required a lot of caution since as many as 250 serious crimes were reported on the NYC subway per week in 1979.
Within this intense backdrop, we appreciate the work of Willy Spiller, a Swiss photographer who lived in New York for seven years and documented the subway system from 1977 onwards. With the curious gaze of an outsider, he captured the story of the graffiti-sprayed subway of New York.
His book, Hell on Wheels, offers a glimpse into his extensive photo archive, taking us into the seedy underbelly of New York during this critical period. According to Sturm & Drang, the publisher, “Willy Spiller’s photographs serve not only as a visual document of this exceptional world but also as a rhythmic, colorful ode to the city of New York and its people.” As a matter of fact, Spiller never went out on a specific subway photography assignment; instead, he used it as a means of transportation to get to his photography assignments, and the shots he took were simply a byproduct of being a passenger like everyone else.
Willy Spiller: The Swiss Photo Reporter Who Captured NYC’s Subway in the Late ’70s and Early ’80s
From Photo Assignments to Public Transit: Spiller’s Unique Approach to Capturing Subway Life
Hell on Wheels: The Republished Book Featuring Spiller’s Iconic Subway Photos from 1984