Shooting on the L train
Wednesday I was the subject of a photo shoot for a magazine that took as its setting the L train system here in Chicago. (More soon on why. For now, you can let your imagination run wild, except to say that it wasn’t for GQ or Model Railroader. Duh.)
Anyway, I spent four hours on various platforms and trains as the subject of what would amount to over 20 GB of photos. I could no longer smile when it was over. In fact, I couldn’t make any countenance except what you’d associate with one who’s lost complete muscular control of his face.
A photo shoot on an L platform is an odd thing indeed. As the subject of the lens you’re a static target on a plane of constant motion. Occasionally my position right at the edge of the platform (which I could not budge from for matters of lighting) would align perfectly with where the train doors would open. Commuters would spill from the train right into me as I stood staring far in the distance at the photographer. I was jostled and shoved, a clear obstruction to exit from the train car — but I was smiling broadly, yessir! I looked like an escapee from a sanitarium I am quite sure. Oh, the muttered obscenity. Move you stupid fuck. Is that guy famous or something? Hmph, no!
At one point a CTA official told us that they were receiving reports that the flash canopy was blinding the drivers as they pulled into the station. It is true that the photographer hit the Gatling gun just as trains arrived (it was a good shot), but c’mon, it isn’t like the train would run off the tracks. It was basically stopped at the station.
Even funnier were the shots actually on the trains. There are many unwritten rules of decorum on the L, most of which are violated frequently to the delight of train-bloggers. Eye contact, loud talking, overt acts of sexual penetration … these are a few of the rules to which I will add having your photo taken by a crew. Commuters did not know what to do. At one point the photographer was getting so many crazy looks that he just stopped it all and declaimed to the car “We’re from ….* . He’s not famous. Nothing to see here.” Or something like that.
It was a grueling day, actually. And I know I sound like a spoiled actor or something saying that. The crew said none of the photos they took for this feature (a-ha, a hint!) was as difficult as balancing the lighting, incoming trains, and crowds that were integral to this shoot. But it could have been worse. It could have been the next day when the L system had a serious breakdown: power outage, suicide, and track gap — all in the same day. Ouch!
[*] Thought I’d trip up, eh? Gotcha!