The next time you pass through Suburban Station, keep your eyes peeled for a new photo exhibit that features the real faces of everyday people who travel on Philly’s public transit system.
Local photographer Shasta Bady has created “As Above, So Below,” a photo exhibit she describes as “a sanguine study of public transportation in the city of Philadelphia – a photographic exploration of its architecture, its passengers, in a space of continuous movement.”
The large-form photos can be found at the station shops at Suburban’s concourse level.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Bady said she has always experienced powerful connections in those brief encounters with mere strangers while taking public transportation nearly all her life. She was able to form a partnership with SEPTA and with Athenian Razak, the company that manages space in Suburban Station. Her photos are the inaugural exhibit in a new program made possible with help from Philly’s Women’s Mobile Museum.
At first, Bady said she was wary about picking up her camera to start taking pictures of strangers, but it was a good friend who gave her a little prodding that provided the right encouragement.
“A friend of mine, he was really giving me the courage and motivation to speak and do the work. In the initial stages, I was so afraid to interact with people, so this was a lesson for me in breaking down my own personal boundaries and my own fears,” she said.
So, in 2018, Bady began photographing people on her daily SEPTA commute, introducing herself to fellow passengers and explaining her project.
“People don’t always say ‘yes,’ but that’s OK. I never wanted anyone to feel like I was overstepping their boundaries or not respecting their space.”
Asked the meaning behind the name of the project, Bady said it was pretty straightforward.
“Everything is intertwined and interconnected… What happens above ground with SEPTA, also happens below ground. I’ve met people at different stages and different levels of the public transportation system, so you can’t really differentiate what’s above and what’s below. They’re the same.”
On Tuesday, Bady’s mother, Helen Bady, took the day off work to come see her daughter’s art project debut. She told dosage MAGAZINE that she had no doubt Bady had an artistic talent, starting from when she was a child and would draw on the walls at home.
“We would put her in the corner for a time out, and she would still draw on the wall. For her, it was like peace. So, then we went out and got her the easel board and made her feel like she was in Paris. And we got her the hat, so we knew right away that she was an artist,” she said.
Nasir Singleton from Philly’s Overbrook section happened to be passing through the underground Tuesday when Bady’s photos caught his eye. He said the images of everyday people on the walls adjacent to the station shops added warmth to the space.
“I’m one of the people who uses SEPTA every day,” said Singleton.
“I think it shows togetherness, peace and diversity, and that people are people, and it shows it here that we all live and we all love.”
Thus far, Bady has photographed 58 subjects. Eight are currently on display at Suburban Station and will remain there until March.