Get on the train, please! –Michael Wolf and Tokyo’s rush hour


Everyone living in a big city can at least picture how unbearable the situation of people captured in the photos taken by Michael Wolf must be like. In the summer months, in particular, public transport isn’t a place to feel very good. In cities with an extremely high population density it won’t ever be. As someone living in a city with an excellent public transportation network where masses of passengers, apart from some exceptions, are rather limited, I almost get dizzy when looking at the photos from Tokyo. Perched in, their faces pressed at the glass windows and pushed to their limits is how I’d describe the looks of these persons. Feeling something like that is what I can’t and don’t even want to imagine and certainly not experience on an everyday basis, every morning and every evening.

The idea of taking pictures of persons in such an uncomfortable situation is certainly original and I can’t deny that looking at the photo series was interesting to me. However, I can’t help feeling like a voyeur when doing so. Obviously many of these people aren’t really delighted to have their picture taken by the German photographer, and you can understand them. While looking at some of his pictures I was caught by a bad conscience.

What do you think of his pictures? Do you consider taking pictures of people in such situations inappropriate? Even if it happens in the name of photographic art? Michael Wolf published these pictures for his project “Tokyo compression”.

You can find more about this photographer on his website. There you can also check out the photos of all his other projects and watch more compressed faces in Tokyo’s subway! 😉


Photos by: Michael Wolf


  1. Having left a city that I lived in for all but ten years of my life, I find these a bit disturbing. I’m not a great fan of candid photos of people who might not have wanted to be put on display on a public website, but I expect then they probably went home and took photos themselves of strangers and did the same thing, so maybe it balances out. The bottom one fascinates me, out of all of them, though. I’m not sure why – maybe his face mask (against air pollution? Germs?) and the position of his hands.

    I remember rush-hour in London (which was the closest experience to this) and being crammed in underground trains. Never a pleasant experience.


    1. Yes I thought the same. About the whole situation of photographing people who clearly aren’t happy of you taking a photo of them and about the guy with the face mask. He looks kind of peaceful, like he was meditating to forget his situation or something like that!


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