For some who ride the Staten Island Ferry, it’s a daily routine. They’re putting makeup on in the bathroom on their commute to work and napping with headphones during their ride home.
For others, it’s an attraction. They’re taking photographs in front of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry’s top deck to remember their first trip to the Big Apple.
Michael Anthony Schmidt, a photography student at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, takes the ferry at least three times a week to get to school. At first he was just people-watching, but about three months ago he started taking pictures of his fellow passengers.
“It’s pretty wild,” he said. “The diversity is just incredible.”
The 25-minute ferry shuttles 60,000 people each weekday between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan, according to the ferry's website. Among them are doctors, tourists, military personnel and homeless people.
Schmidt is in the Coast Guard and has been taking the ferry to and from Staten Island, where he is based, for three years.
“I think at this point, because I’ve taken it for so long now, the strange things are normal to me,” he said.
Just two days ago on the noon ferry, Schmidt said a man was playing a boom box and talking to himself so loudly that the people around him got up and moved. The man got up to high five everyone.
Schmidt has taken the 3 a.m. ferry back after going out in the city and has seen even odder behaviors at that hour. He said he wants to document more of the off hours in the future.
For the most part, he doesn’t shoot with a checklist, he said.
“I usually just see a moment and get it,” Schmidt said, though sometimes he’ll spot an interesting person and he’ll sit near them and watch for the image. In only three photos in his series were people aware that he was taking their picture.
One particular scene he wants to capture is in one of the few areas on the ferry that are off-limits to him – the women’s bathroom. He can see a group of about 10 older women line up to put on their makeup while looking into a giant window and gossiping.
“It’s a really interesting thing I haven’t been able to photograph,” he said.
Staten Island is the forgotten part of New York City, Schmidt said, and he wants to bring more attention to it.
Beyond getting restroom access to capture the women’s routines, Schmidt plans to document the coming of the Staten Island Ferris wheel, expected to open in December 2015.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in September that the Ferris wheel would be the largest in the world at 625 feet tall. Dubai has since announced that it will build a Ferris wheel 63 feet taller, robbing Staten Island of the record before it has earned it.
Officials in charge of the project aren’t talking about changing their plans, New York Daily News reported, and it is still going to draw people to Staten Island to view the city skyline from a very tall wheel.
- Lauren Russell, CNN