Next stop: fabulous
A RENOWNED URBAN PHOTOGRAPHER CATCHES A GLIMPSE OF NEW YORK CITY WHILE SHE’S STILL GETTING READY
glancing over at the maniac driver who’s just swerved in front of you, the one thing more frustrating than finding them on their phone is to see them pressed up against the rear-view mirror – mascara wand in hand, the steering wheel under the incompetent guidance of an elbow.
Sprucing on the go is an honoured tradition for working women the world over, as they shove in the imperative to look good with the imperative to juggle everything else. ‘I felt like if I got caught in the confines of a subway car, I can get in more trouble than I’m wanting to deal with at this age, ’the renowned US street photographer, Jeff Mermelstein, told The New York Times, describing his series of photographs that surreptitiously capture women making themselves up during their commute on New York’s subways. Fortunately for Mermelstein, the task of painting one’s face is pretty all-engrossing and, while puckering, lacquering and rouging, the women didn’t seem to notice his furtive lens until he’d already gotten his shot.
The make-up series raises a question of urban etiquette: are you allowed to subject an audience to an uninvited show of ‘Cirque du Face’? (Any more than you’re allowed to begin flossing or clipping your nails?) ‘I feel very self-conscious when I’m doing it,’ one of the women Mermelstein photographed confessed. ‘But when I look at [other] people, I’m just like: “How’s it gonna look when they’re done?”’ Another woman, caught mid-primp, was less apologetic. ‘You look better when you first arrive,’ she said. ‘Your make-up’s nice and fresh.’ This relatively common practice also can’t help but reflect something about the city which tolerates it: the rushed sense of every minute counting that is synonymous with New York, coupled with the vast transient population that makes a packed subway carriage full of strangers feel as anonymous as your own bedroom mirror. Jeffmermelstein.com
Mermelstein realized that these women,no matter what they were applying, were far too focused on perfecting their look to even notice that their photograph was being taken.