Time Stands Still: Sublime Slow-Motion Subway Panoramas

slow mo foto

A subway speeds by the platform, leaving most passengers with a fleeting impression and fast-fading memories of people glimpsed only for a moment, but not this crafty slow-motion documentarian. If you watch no other video today, this week or this year, make the time for at least one of those below.

In the above video excerpt, Adam Magyar captures frozen bystanders in fast succession (50 frames per second) at a Tokyo, Berlin and New York (Grand Central) train stations. His custom technology captures everything, and limited post-processing generates a kind of three-dimensional panoramic portrait of everyone in view. These finished products come both in the form of prints and videos, but the latter in particular are must-watch wonders.

“In Stainless, I scan rushing subway trains arriving to stations. The images record a number of tiny details of this moment. We see people staring towards their destinations standing at the doors framed by the sliding door windows. They are scrutinizing the uncertain future. Similarly to all my images, their main motivation is arrival. The darkness of the tunnels deep below the city turns these chemically clean mock-ups into fossils of our time. “

time subway black white

Magyar uses slit-scan and other technologies and techniques to, as writer Joshua Hammer describes, “bend conventional representations of time and space, stretching milliseconds into minutes, freezing moments with a resolution that the naked eye could never have perceived. His art evokes such variegated sources as Albert Einstein, Zen Buddhism, even the 1960s TV series The Twilight Zone.”

The extended film from Tokyo is shown above. It is truly mesmerizing to watch the most mundane behaviors caught in mid-act, be it a wet dog in mid-shake, creamer hanging over coffee mid-pour or a woman seen in mid-sneeze. It took Magyar years to perfect his craft – the worthy projects that led up to it (shown below) are essential to understanding how he achieved his current mastery.


time people linear rows

time square people aligned

If the process behind this uncanny effect seems impossibly complex: his signature un-moving montages came with a great deal of time and technological experimentation. This Stainless series is indeed just the latest in a long line of  experimental photo projects, starting with Squares (shown above) which features collections of people taken out of time and selected to force a grid-like order on passersby.