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New York Underground

Jim Rimi | United States

Organization: Rimi Studios

Black and white photo documentary project titled New York Underground. An eleven year journey photographing the people living in the New York City subway system and mens shelter on the bowery.

In 1983, on a dark October morning at 4:00 am., I entered the largest mens shelter in the New York City Bowery. It would be the beginning of an eleven year photographic journey into a book project titled , New York Underground. Some of the men in this shelter were once doctors, writers, world champion boxers, renowned musicians and fathers. Some had an intellect close to genius level while others could not write their own name. Looking into each and every persons eyes I felt compassion for their struggle, their wants and their needs. I was constantly reminded of the fact that all these people were just like you and I at one time. It is the situation and circumstances, the trails and tribulations of life and how we handle them that determine the road we choose.I wanted to photograph each and every person. I wanted to capture their personalities, their inner most feelings, and their souls. I wanted to force the viewer to confront the subject.

In the beginning I chose to photograph against a nine foot pure white seamless backdrop. The stark background provided a powerfull contrast to the subject. I then moved toward photographing people in the NYC subway system. They included street people, the homeless, and musicians. The street musicians were often incredibly talented. One of the most talented musicians I've ever met was Rodger Ridley. I"ll never forget his voice-It was beautiful yet powerfully anointed. I can still hear him singing "My Girl" with a passion that still echoes through the tunnels of Grand Central Station.

I met several couples who made their lives together on the streets. One coupleI spoke to were expecting a baby. The mom-to-be could not have been more than fifteen years old. The homeless talked about their daily routine: a constant search for food, warmth and shelter. The New York City subway system is a self contained infrastructer which some choose as a means of existence. The homeless are the invisible citizens of New York. People walk past them everyday and look right through them. When we turn away from these people on the street are we in fact trying to deny it could just as easily be any of us? An unforgetable story is of a man who suffers from epilepsy but who led on otherwise normal life. While driving on an outing with his family he had a seizure, resulting in an accident which instantley killed his entire family. As the only survivor he has spent the rest of his days agonizing over that moment. He has chosen to stay in the past and no longer cares to function. His experience brings home the truth that ones life can change in a split second. The choices we make, the way we handle the many hard times of life that are thrown at us, may determine how we live out the rest of our lives. Life should be treated as a very precious gift from God.



Jim Rimi


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