CNN Photos

On the Moscow metro

Photographer Tomer Ifrah arrived in Russia’s capital in the middle of winter and discovered the Moscow metro, which intrigued him because it was the only place in the city where all ages and statuses gathered.

“When you walk into the metro, you see all of the classes, all of the people,” Ifrah said. “Even the rich people, because traffic is too difficult.”

He compared it with the metro in India, where the wealthy would take the metro but could buy tickets for private cars. The stations were vibrant and buzzing with noises from trains and people.

Moscow has the third busiest subway system in the world, with 6.6 million riders daily. However, at times all he could hear were footsteps and a train stopping and starting every few minutes.

“Nobody talks,” Ifrah said. “It’s very strange in that way.”

During the day and early evening, he captured thousands of grim looks after long days of work. Ifrah noted that he was there in the dead of winter, when temperatures dropped to -15 to -25 degrees Celsius (-13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) outside.

“Naturally, it affects people coming into the metro,” he said. “They say you can never get used to it.”

Because most kept to themselves, the only understanding he could get of the passers-by was through their clothing. People’s characteristics disappeared under thick coats and fur hats, making everyone look like the stereotypical Russians he had always imagined.

Later in the day, he said, young people would pass through, talking and playing around, bringing a new mood.

Unlike the people, each station had a visibly unique personality. Many stations were built in the ’30s and ’40s with distinguishable Soviet architecture, and no two stops looked the same.

Typically, Ifrah starts a project with a well-thought-out plan and arrangements to meet locals. However, last year, he had simply seen photos of Moscow online and thought he should do a personal project in the city.

Ifrah spent two months working on the project, taking only a dozen or so pictures a day rather than hundreds, as he would on a typical assignment. With the exception of a few portraits, Ifrah tried to work without the subjects noticing.

He tried to capture his exact experience but didn’t have a story in mind.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard to photograph that way because you don’t know what you’re looking for,” he said.

- Lauren Russell, CNN