The New York City Transit department has been involved with a huge artificial reef building programme across vast swathes of the US coastline by dumping decommissioned subway trains into the Atlantic.
Photographer Stephen Mallon has been documenting the entire process which has heralded some fantastic images. Drift caught up with Stephen to find out a little bit more about the project and to discover more about his fascination of construction sites, machinery and engineering.
Stephen first read about the reef project in 2007 describing the end of the ‘Red Bird’ subway cards. At the same time he was working in his influential American Reclamation photography series. Stephen explains how the project kicked off.
“I was approached by an agent that was interested in doing a book with me so I wanted to find a relevant theme that tied into what I was already shooting. We (my wife and I) had been travelling around (we used to call it picture hunting) looking for interesting industrial landscapes to photograph for a couple of years and realized that focusing on the re-use of space and material was a smooth transition. ”
It’s going to be about the re-purposing the largest landfill on the East Coast and turning it into a city park on Staten Island
“The project is titled American Reclamation and that got me started shooting a paper mill, two electronic recycling plants, and a cement factory to name a few.”
“Reclamation Volume three is all about another artificial reef, the sinking of the USS Radford, an American destroyer that was sunk off of the cost of Delaware to continue the expansion of the artificial reefs that the state of Delaware operates. Volume four is in production right now!
It’s going to be about the re-purposing of Fresh Kills, the largest landfill on the East Coast, and turning it into a city park on Staten Island.”
The subway cars are the last thing you would expect to come across in the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has sunk over 2500 of the cars in a stretch from Long Island to Georgia, some 1000 miles long (see our map below for an idea of scale).
Stephen has carved a career out from photographing construction, machinery and large engineering sites, something that may not excite all, but there is no doubt from his jaw-dropping images that his work is incredibly striking. When asked of his single favourite image from a career containing thousands of potentials one immediately sprung to mind:
“I think one of my favorite projects of all time is the commission from the NY Times Magazine during the summer of 2014. My favorite way to view it is online.”
Click here to view this inconceivable image and get ready for a lot of right scrolling…
Stephen doesn’t want to stop here though and has plenty of blue sky big thinking for his next projects.
“I have delusions of grandeur and plan to revisit the sunken subways for an second shoot. Once I am comfortable shooting underwater I would love to take a lighting team down with me to see how much has changed – stay tuned!”
“Also I’d love to get back to South Korea to follow more of the ship building. It’s a fascinating construction process so I am trying to find a vessel that I can follow from beginning to end.”
All Images courtesy of Stephen Mallon and Front Room Gallery.
Stephen Mallon’s works will be featured in the solo exhibition Patterns of Interest at NYU’s Kimmel Galleries from Feb. 6 to March 15.
The road journey from Long Island to Georgia showing the expanse of the ocean sinking reef programme