In empty metro stations, photographer finds art and beauty

CNN  — 

The daily commute is the most mundane and often the most frustrating part of city living, but photographer Chris Forsyth wants us to appreciate the beauty hidden in our transit systems. The 20-year-old has spent two years capturing busy underground stations – devoid of people.

Almost 150 subway stations have been photographed as part of his photo series “The Metro Project.”

The first edition focused on his hometown of Montreal and earned him the accolade of 2015’s International Photographer of the Year award for interior architecture.

His latest series turns his attention to Europe, snapping the metro systems of Munich, Berlin and Stockholm. “Each city’s underground has something unique to offer,” says Forsyth.

“Montreal’s metro system is a microcosm of 1960s Canadian architecture.”

Meanwhile, “Stockholm’s Tunnelbana is known as the world’s longest art exhibit,” says Forsyth. “Many of its stations have kept their raw, cave-like form, and include larger-than-life hand-painted walls and ceilings.”

Amongst his Stockholm images is one of Europe’s most photographed stations – Solna Centrum.

Here, artists Anders Aberg and Karl-Olov Bjork painted its exposed rock an angry black and red, creating something altogether demonic.

Stockholm’s stations are “truly a treat for the senses,” says Forsyth. Moving on to Germany, he says that Munich’s stations are generally “very modern and spacious.”

He adds, “Looking at Berlin, being that their U-Bahn is over a hundred years old, and has 170 stations, there’s a variety of old and new.”

In Canada, different architects designed each station, so each has its own character and atmosphere, he explains.

“That really fascinated me – that you can see such a variety of architectural styles in such a short time.”

World’s most impressive metro stations

Empty stations

Berlin's Rathaus Steglitz was designed by R. G. Rummler and opened in 1974.

Despite an average of more than 1.3 million passengers traveling daily on Montreal’s metro system, Forsyth’s photos feature little more than the stations’ clean lines and bold colors. There’s barely a human figure in sight.

This monumental feat started out merely as a way to avoid breaking the law.

“When I began the project in Quebec, there is a law protecting people against being photographed in public,” he says. But as he traveled to other cities this “developed into more of a style decision.”

Surprisingly, Forsyth succeeds in shooting these images during the day, spending up to eight hours a day in each city’s underground.

“If I place down my tripod, eventually, I’ll have an empty photograph. It’s just a matter of waiting for that perfect moment.”

Long exposures, motion blurs and color adjustments are also used to emphasize key design features. He’s quick to add, “I tried to stay as true to the stations as possible.”

Take a ride on the world’s most envied metro system


Forsyth is now looking to turn the project into a collaborative online archive.

He’s asking members of the public to photograph the stations they pass through everyday and upload images to Instagram via the hashtags #mtlmetroproject in Montreal and #themetroproject internationally. Collectively it’s garnered more than 2,000 posts.

He hopes to extend the series further by traveling through the underground systems of Warsaw, Moscow, Paris and London, which is the oldest on the planet.

“There are a ton of really interesting systems around the world and I’d like to visit them all eventually,” he says.

The aim of the project is to help “people appreciate the spaces that they pass through a bit more and take the time to look around.”

Forsyth hopes they “find something they like about what they see.”

Want to see more? CNN put together a selection of some of the world’s most stunning metro stations in the gallery below.

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Nosmot Gbadamosi is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes about culture, lifestyle, social photography and adventures of intrigue with a focus on Europe and Africa.