“As a photographer-taxi driver, I never find it very difficult to ask people for pictures. I know I have to move quickly because we may have only 10 or 20 blocks to go.
When stopping for a fare, I look the passengers over, greet them and introduce myself as a photographer.
I tell them about the portraits that I take of people who ride in my taxi, and then I ask if I can photograph them. Little do they know when they step into my taxi, they’re stepping into my studio.” – Ryan Weideman, In My Taxi – New York After Hours
New York’s iconic yellow taxis and their stereotypically-cantankerous drivers have been featured in movies, artwork and stories. But, for twenty years, one cab driver turned the lens around, focusing on the passengers he ferried to their destinations. Ryan Weideman’s passenger photographs document New York’s nightlife from the early 80’s to the late 90’s, an array of colorful characters shot in black and white.
Weideman’s photos feature punks and poets, sex workers and schoolchildren, drunks and dog-owners — essentially, anyone you can find in the back of a cab between 5pm and 5am on weekends. And, while he initially started driving a taxi as a side job to support his photographic ambitions, his backseat shots have become iconic all on their own, a testament to a side of New York that no longer truly exists.
“I came to New York because I’m a photographer, and I wanted to do my work, and I was influenced by all these amazing, amazing photographers. I thought, yeah, this is the place i want to go. I had no idea. I looked around first things first, I wandered around the city with my camera, getting turned around, not knowing where in the hell I was but having a good time.” – Ryan Weideman, Artists In Residence TV, 2017
Weideman grew up in Oklahoma, to parents who lost their ancestral farm during the Great Depression. As a child, he was deeply influenced by his parents’ photo album of the ordeal. “When they lost the farm, my parents recorded all the episodes they went through with their Brownie: pictures of farmers standing around at the auction where all their equipment was being sold off, and of the lines of automobiles parked up on the dirt road that led to our farm. They’re beautiful pictures. They inspired me.”