Before Stanley Kubrick went down as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time in history, he was just a teenager looking for a job in New York City. In 1946, Kubrick set out as a staff photographer for Look magazine to depict the New York City subway, which is well known as the lifeline of the city by most New Yorkers.
“‘I wanted to retain the mood of the subway, so I used natural light,’ he said. People who ride the subway late at night are less inhibited than those who ride by day. Couples make love openly, drunks sleep on the floor and other unusual activities take place late at night. To make pictures in the off-guard manner he wanted to, Kubrick rode the subway for two weeks. Half of his riding was done between midnight and six a.m. Regardless of what he saw he couldn’t shoot until the car stopped in a station because of the motion and vibration of the moving train. Often, just as he was ready to shoot, someone walked in front of the camera, or his subject left the train.”
— “Camera Quiz Kid: Stan Kubrick,” The Camera, October 1948.
Take a look at the life and love of New York City’s subway commuters through these 21 fascinating vintage black-and-white photographs taken by a 17-year-old Stanley Kubrick: