24 Hours on the Night Tube: Street Photos From a City Dweller

All images by Tarik Ahmet, used with permission. 

Metro commutes are a pain, as any city dweller will tell you. Be it a bus, a train, a subway, or a taxi: getting to and from your destination in a large city is no fun at all. That said, you can also find some interesting subjects, from a photography perspective, if you just open your eyes and look around. This is exactly what photographer Tarik Ahmet did in his project 24 Hours on the Night Tube

Just as you might have guessed with the title, the project centers around a 24 hour period in which Ahmet spent documenting the people he had the pleasure of traveling with. The goal of the project was to simply capture things that looked interesting, to exercise the creative mind. We had Ahmet answer some questions about himself and his project, and you can follow that interesting interview below.

Phoblographer: Tell us about how you got into photography?

Tarik: The first time I picked up a camera was when I played in a band in my early 20’s (around 10 years ago). We needed some promo shots of ourselves and I wanted to give it a go so I borrowed a friends Nikon N60. I instinctively felt comfortable with a camera in my hand…weirdly more comfortable than I EVER felt with a guitar in my hand. Soon after that I purchased a Canon 350D and found myself carrying it around everywhere and fell in love with shooting candid portraits. I then started photographing babies and families to fund purchasing new gear but that didn’t last too long and I felt uninspired and there came a point where I really did hit a brick wall with how I felt about photography and even thought about selling all my gear at one point. However in 2011 I found wedding photography, or rather wedding photography found me, and I was literally hooked from there.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into your genre?

Tarik: I think people are fascinating. I often find myself sitting beside someone or walking towards someone wondering where they are going, what they are thinking, if they are happy,  if they’re trouble? So being able to photograph someone in a candid way and freeze that moment is what it’s all about for me. Over time I gained the confidence to start photographing people with them embracing the camera and looking straight at the lens and this gave me a completely different perspective of things and people. Shooting weddings gave me the freedom to cover so many different aspects of creative photography and the honesty and sincerity of the whole occasion is always undeniably satisfying.

Phoblographer: Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision?

Tarik: I’ve always used Canon cameras, my first being the 350D, then I moved on to the 7D, but everything changed when I purchased my full frame Canon 6D. I loved the files this guy could produce and the dynamic range was incredible. A lot of people ask me why I decided to invest in Canon rather than Nikon and the truth is, I went into a camera store, picked up both cameras and the Canon just felt right. Simple as that. I’ve had various lenses over the past 10 years, but I have to say the Sigma Art range is a total game changer for me. Just beautifully sharp and the silky smooth bokeh wide open is a dream. HOWEVER! Last year I purchased my first mirrorless Olympus EM10 and things started to shift in my mind.

All of a sudden I could see what I was shooting with the EVF and that felt good. The compact size meant I could carry it around everywhere I went, so I started to find my self documenting things a lot more. I started thinking, “if only this camera was a little more capable I’d start shooting weddings with it,”…and then came my most recent purchase, the Fuji XT2 – after weeks and weeks of arguing with myself, and research, it is probably the best camera I have used. I can’t believe how much it inspires me to photograph and within a month of owning it I actually feel like I’ve improved as a photographer. It’s such a strange feeling. I know it has a cropped sensor and I know the DOF doesn’t match that of a FF @f1.4, but I’ve found myself thinking about moments when I’m shooting with this camera; something that I seemed to have forgotten about whilst chasing the next super DSLR with the BEST low light capabilities etc etc.

The Fuji just is fuss free and ready to capture moments as they happen. The silent shutter and flippy screen is a game changer for my street photography and the fact that it focuses so quickly and is razor sharp with the 23mm f2 BLOWS my mind. It won’t be too long till I’m shooting with this camera full time. It’s wonderfully agile and such a capable camera.

Phoblographer: What motivates you to shoot?

Tarik: I can’t always express myself with words. I find the world quite a complicated place and the thing that reassures me that mankind isn’t doomed is human interaction and the beauty that is all around us. Sometimes you miss so much that’s going on around you from day to day, so having the ability to capture these things and share it with people gives me such a great feeling. Receiving that one message from a bride telling you how many memories you’ve captured for them gives me the motivation the shoot 1,000’s of weddings.

I’ve recently started to invested quite a lot of my time sharing personal work on Instagram and really enjoy seeing all the great work that photographers put out there and being able to meet loads of creative photographers across the world.

Phoblographer: What photographers influence you?

Tarik: My biggest influence that showed me photography can be as creative as you want it to be is Ross Harvey. I first stumbled across his blog back in 2011, and I was stunned at how beautiful his work was and how great he was at telling a story. Jeff Ascough was always a really big one for me too – documentary photography at it’s purest. I’m a huge fan of black and white photography and loved the way he could capture so many moments in such brilliant light.

Recently I’ve stumbled across a few fantastic street photographers that inspire both my personal work and my wedding photography: a few of these via Instagram and others that are actually wedding photographers. Alan Schaller is doing some amazing street photography and documentary work, his work is so distinctive. It’s just beautiful the way that he can craft light.

Street photography takes place on the trains all day every day. There’s tons of amazing work out there. However I set out to document a day as a street photographer which is something that I’d never seen. I wanted to tell a story about people and their journey and to be honest about it. I’d set out with no particular goal except, if it looks interesting, follow your gut and take a picture. I’ve since shared the article with a few friends and they have been exceptionally complimentary, which I really didn’t expect. Kevin Mullins responded to the work as “Superb” which I am absolutely chuffed about. I just think it’s so important to stay creative and photograph what feels right and sometimes it can lead to something cool. I was moments away from not even bothering with this project – 24 hours on the London Underground! I usually find a 30 minute commute painful. But it’s turned out to be one of my most successful pieces of work I’ve done so far.

You can find the whole 24 Hours on the Night Tube project , and more of Ahmet’s work over on his website, here.

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.