Thursday Spotlight: Tony Falcone Captures Portraits of L Train Commuters in the Face of Change
The L Train is closing, this we know. Brooklynites will relocate, biking will increase, businesses may shut down. It’s a great deal of change in an ever-changing borough, and no medium captures this evolution as well as photography.
Enter local artist Tony Falcone, whose portraits of neighbors and commuters will soon be relics of an L Train past. His simple and stirring photos depict people going about their lives — lives that soon will face fierce readjustment and perhaps unwelcome change. We caught up with Tony — a celebrated street photographer — to discuss his experiences and method in capturing his subjects, and a changing neighborhood.
Greenpointers: What inspired you to capture these portraits on the L?
Tony Falcone: It is a current issue that affects lots of people and businesses who had moved to neighborhoods near the L line because of the quick and easy commute to Manhattan. The L Train is a big reason why neighborhoods like Williamsburg grew to what they are now.
GP: In your interactions with your subjects, what have been some recurring topics/conversations you’ve discussed?
TF: I normally ask for a quick opinion and also ask how they plan on coping with the
upcoming changes. Many people are not optimistic about the alternatives to the L Train while the
shutdown and construction is in progress. The JMZ lines are already overcrowded and the people I’ve spoken to are pessimistic about buses being able to handle the millions of commuters who use the L Train. People are planning on commuting with bicycles. Others are planning on moving and I’ve heard reports of businesses shutting down due to the construction.
Several people were optimistic about the future L Train after the construction is complete. The participants seem pretty interested in voicing their opinion and are grateful for the opportunity to do so.
GP: What times do you often photograph, and in/around what stations?
TF: Although the times I shoot the portraits vary, I try to stick to evenings. I had originally planned to try shooting at many different stations along the L line, then I thought to stick to First Ave and Bedford Ave, but I’ve been sticking to Bedford Ave mostly lately.
GP: What’s been one of the biggest takeaways from this experience?
The people are great and what I’ve noticed is how different the opinions are regarding the impact of the upcoming changes are.
GP: What else do you enjoy photographing?
TF: I enjoy photographing portraits mainly — I also enjoy photographing performances,
especially music and circus performances, and street photos.