Interview: Subway Cars Tossed into the Atlantic Ocean Become Artificial Reefs

It's a spectacular and almost surreal sight – discarded subway cars getting tossed into the sea. Over a course of two and a half years, Stephen Mallon took photos of New York City's subway cars as they found a new home and a renewed purpose. Called Next Stop Atlantic, the series sheds light on how these modern-day machines take on their next challenge – being artificial reefs for marine life.

We got in touch with Mallon to ask him more about this really intriguing series and how it ended up impacting his career. Read that eye-opening interview, below, after taking in these incredibly dramatic shots.

You've been called an” “industrial photographer” whose work skirts the fringe between photojournalism and fine art. Is that an accurate description?
It was a title I was using to let people know exactly what I was doing. I thought it was a great idea but it seems to have caused some confusion along the way thinking that I only shoot assembly lines. I took it out of the tagline in my email and a few other places but it had already spread so much that its going to stay around for quite a while. I am leaning towards photographer of the industrial world – has a nice ring to it!

What did it feel like to see these subway cars get thrown into the ocean?
Surreal! Titanic-esque for sure, I winched sometimes when they hit really hard. Like looking out of an open window, your third eye sometimes sees your yourself falling out. With these subway cars after riding them for over a decade, you sometimes feel pulled back in, holding on for dear life but this time you aren't just protecting the one square foot you have to stand in during rush hour.

How important was it to capture that moment?
Each one is unique, it's splash photography on a pretty massive scale! The changes in the water and the light are almost instantaneous and I can't capture each moment in each drop, some are frozen in mid-air, some are violent connections with the ocean, which is also its new home.

What kind of attention did this series receive and how did that impact your career?
CHANGED MY LIFE! My relationship with Weeks Marine has allowed me to photograph some historic moments in New York history and I will be forever grateful. I write this from an office in Rome where I was selected as one of ten exhibiting artists. I am here for the press conference and opening next week (at Pure Water Vision of Eco Art Project.)

What are some tips you could give others interested in taking on your type of photography?
What helped open a number of doors was having a book project going on. That lead to some great locations. Also, follow your bliss! If you love shooting trash, go after it. Someone else in the world is going to like it, too.

Thanks for the interview and photos, Stephen. What inspiring work.

Stephen Mallon's website

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