The art of people watching on the subway meets the Instagram generation on the oddball website City Subway Creatures.
Rick McGuire, a television producer whose credits include trueTV’s “World’s Dumbest,” said he came up with the idea for the site after moving to New York five years ago from New Jersey and taking the subway for the first time.
“Just like everybody else, I saw the craziest stuff on the subway. And I thought, wow, somebody needs to document this,” he said in a recent interview.
Over 21,000 Instagram followers later, City Subway Creatures is something of a compendium of subway weirdness, outrageousness, lewd behavior, celebrity sightings and underground shenanigans. There’s also a separate website where McGuire posts longer video clips and comments.
He’s also expanded beyond just New York City — images of subway life from all over the world populate his Instagram feed, showing that strange subway behavior may universal in its bizarreness.
But even McGuire is astonished by some of the stuff that comes his way — contributions are mostly from people he doesn’t know and who follow the project. “It’s obviously eye-opening and you can’t believe people will go out like this,” he said. “People will pretty much do anything in public.”
He said he’s developed some ground rules: He doesn’t “exploit” homeless people (he once did a post on a “very obvious homeless guy” and received “backlash”) and if people contact him asking to take down an image he’ll typically comply. “I’ve been threatened with lawsuits,” he said.
McGuire, who admits to being a “huge people watcher” himself, agrees that the people captured in the candid shots can be caricaturized by them. But he said people go out in public exhibiting strange behavior or looking outlandish in an age when they know most people are carrying cameras in their pockets.
“You can’t go on the subway wearing a diaper and get mad when people are staring at you and taking pictures of you,” he said.
And, yes, that really did happen.
Here are some recent examples from the project.