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Stephen Mallon

July 29 - September 25, 2011

Opening Reception: Friday, July 29, 6 pm - 8 pm
Closing Reception: Friday, September 23, 6 pm - 8 pm

The industrial landscape has held a life-long attraction for photographer Stephen Mallon. Seeking what he calls “a surreal beauty” in its machinery and sites, he creates powerful images and captures some extraordinary moments. Mallon also has a special interest in reclamation projects that salvage, rebuild or repurpose the products of industry. These twin impulses led him to spend three years documenting the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority’s recycling program that builds artificial underwater reefs from decommissioned subway cars. Next Stop Atlantic tracks the final journey of these cars as they travel toward their last stop, the Atlantic Ocean.

This photographic series dramatically depicts the moments before, during, and after the cars are dropped into the ocean to create a new home for undersea life. Mallon shows us the subway cars in a transitional stage between their former and future lives, before their transformation from active to passive is complete. He offers two kinds of images: cars at rest—stripped, stockpiled, and seemingly at the end of the line—and cars put back in motion as they are dropped off the barges. The poignancy of the images may result from the displacement of the trains—they are quite literally out of their element. There is a poetic, even elegiac quality to many of these photographs. Virginia Placement, which freezes the moment just before a car hits the water, suggests a burial at sea. In images like Sink and Settling we witness the instant before the ocean swallows the cars whole. The American flag on the side of the sinking train in Pool is a stunning reminder of Nature’s ultimate power over Man.

It is almost possible to hear the sounds implicit in these photographs—the clanking of steel, the large “splash” and then the final, eerie silence. The rapid motion, dynamism and often overpowering noises associated with working subway cars are distant memories. The future of these trains will be quiet and stationary; the only movement they experience will be the water’s currents and the darting fish. They are a perfect symbol of the surreal beauty Mallon seeks.

Mary Birmingham, Curator


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