We all have our little morning rituals, whether on the train, at the coffee shop, or while walking into the office. In his new book 42nd and Vanderbilt published by TBW Books, the Danish photographer Peter Funch captured the rituals of strangers on their way to work on the same street corner, every day between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. over the course of nine years.
From 2007 to 2016, Funch parked himself on the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt, right outside New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, and photographed the crowds that emerged in waves from the depths of the station. During his editing process, he began to pick out characters–people he’d captured again and again across the years.
Funch managed to photograph his subjects doing the same small rituals–days, weeks, and even years apart. In the book, these portraits are arranged side-by-side. One man takes a drag from his cigarette at the same moment; one man spits into the same trash can on the corner on different days; others are wearing different clothes but have the same–often angst-ridden–facial expressions. Unsurprisingly, yawns are very common. One woman looks like she’s dreading the day ahead, again and again. Funch noticed that he would catch some people walking near each other at the same time every day–but they never seemed to meet or even notice. “It was fascinating to see that connectivity between people,” he says. “They have no idea.”
Some people followed the same routine for nearly 10 years. Funch says he photographed one older man in 2007, 2012, and again in 2017. “You could hardly believe it, that you’d find the same people having the same ritual over 10 years,” Funch says. “It’s such a New York thing, the idea that people just do the same thing over and over again.” For the most part, the subjects of his book have no idea they’re part of the project. But one friend of Funch’s who bought the book said he saw one of his own friends documented in it. “A big city is suddenly a small world,” Funch says. It certainly is.