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Commute by Sam Wright
Photography by Sam Wright, Styling by Nathan Henry

In Pictures: Sam Wright’s Uncanny Photographs of Commuters

“Travel provides a common ground and space for chance human moments and encounters,” says the British photographer of his cinematic new series

Lead ImagePhotography by Sam Wright, Styling by Nathan Henry

“I can’t say I’ve missed the 8am rush hour tube,” says Sam Wright, whose new photographic series, titled Commute, transforms the mundane, everyday experience of taking public transport into a heightened, cinematic journey. If travel was something we overlooked before the pandemic, now it has taken on new significance, providing ample opportunity for people-watching and disappearing into the humdrum rhythms of a crowd. “Travel provides a common ground and space for chance human moments and encounters,” Wright explains. “I noticed when it was gone, and as it started to return I felt a refreshing sense of unity and togetherness.”

Wright first started out in documentary photography, shooting DIY punk gigs in his hometown of Sheffield. “I loved how photography could be used to capture a mood, feeling and atmosphere of a moment,” he says. “The excitement of visually reliving a moment had me hooked.” Alongside his ongoing personal projects – tender portraits of local residents in Sheffield, or mechanics with amusingly homogenous mullet hairdos in Australia – Wright has made his name as a commercial photographer, shooting adverts for McDonald’s, KFC, and the BBC alongside editorials for The New York Times, How To Spend It and ES Magazine. Despite these big budgets, Wright manages to maintain a sense of warmth and tenderness in all his images, regardless of the subject matter – his portraits capture life as it unfolds, and often read as film stills rather than photographs.

Visually, Commute feels like a noir thriller full of suspense. Shot after dark, with copious amounts of fog and harsh weather, Wright’s subjects gaze out past the camera’s frame, as if transfixed by some kind of action occurring elsewhere. Wright’s subjects, likewise, are full of character. “I have always been drawn to people that have a story to tell,” he says. “The beauty of everyday life is a big inspiration throughout my work, which is why I often choose this as my focus.”