The Beauty of the Humdrum
From the series “Stainless,” New York, 2010. The original prints are over eight feet.

The Beauty of the Humdrum

With ticket in hand, a man enters the turnstile, and minutes pass before the subway rumbles in, grinding to an ear-piercing halt. This familiar  mass transportation scene – the hallmark of the everyday – dots the world in various forms: buses crawling New York, speeding trains of Tokyo, the London tube. It is this everyday that fascinates Adam Magyar, who transmutes it into a new way of seeing. This Berlin-based photographer has a knack for transforming time, existing outside its confines and manipulating it to open our eyes.

This is conceptual art.

Magyar has never been one to follow the beaten path. A computer geek, college dropout, world traveler who taught himself photography, he’s invented specialized camera rigs to get his hyper-realistic, unusual effects. On his website you can use your cursor as a magnifying glass to see the wonderful detail in his massive photos.

His photographic series Stainless, which includes both stills and video, bloomed from many sleepless nights, lines of code that fix light exposure and shakiness, and a dedication reminiscent of Buddhist Zen masters. Working with a camera built to capture high-resolution images of high-speed objects, Magyar spent a year surfing from city to city, looking for transportation scenarios and constantly fixing the bugs in his pictures. Stainless captures the haunting, technology-driven reduction of personal interaction in subway and train stations, and the beauty of the humdrum that transcends individuality. From Rome to Shanghai to New York, people share the same attitudes, the same expressions, the same appearances. Most wander in their own world, whether pondering, zoning out, or communing with their phones.

As trains whiz by, Magyar presses the button, and a 4-second moment becomes an impossibly lucid image. A 12-second moment becomes a 24-minute video. Through code, he’s bending time and hacking the matrix of our existence. His art lives in the stillness of our present. It cries wake up. Life is around you. Notice.

Posted by A. Z. Lee

MORE: Misha Gordon’s stunning conceptual photographs

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