Michael Wolf had spent 30 days in a metro station in Tokyo to take pictures of commuters who get squashed on their way to or from work. The series of portraits is now known as “Tokyo Compression.” Each of the portraits consists of different people who have their faces pressed against the windows or doors inside the train. Discomfort and stress can clearly be seen on the faces of people captured in each of those photos. All the pictures were taken in Tokyo’s Odakyu Line, which made it possible for Wolf to get close to the train windows. “Every 80 seconds, a different train runs through the line” says Wolf. When the commuters get into the train, they are pushed against the windows and Wolf is usually only two inches away from the other side of the same window.
It’s pretty obvious that having a camera right in front of their faces is not going to make the commuters happy. As quoted from Wolf, “No one was pleased with it. My being there made them suddenly aware of how horrible the situation was and they were ashamed of it, but there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t move away or leave the train, so some people tried to cover their faces with their hands. Others had this idea that if they closed their eyes, and they couldn’t see me, then somehow I couldn’t see them.”