It is no secret that I am in love with the trams and often, trains, that are a big part of mine and everyone else’s life here in Poland. So, sit back and take a ride with me while I describe to you a bit of why and what they mean to me. I love this journey, but I might love sharing it with you more.
When I first arrived here in Poland in 2011, one of the first things that caught my eye, making me look again and grabbed my imagination were the trams. The sound of one lumbering down the street is a call for a look, but then seeing the aesthetic that they have and how they perfectly fit in the cityscape made me a fan from that very day and that second look is where I would most often find my focus at. For awhile I was so intimated by the, stamping tickets and the strangeness of it all, that I would opt to walk rather than ride one, exploring the city by foot as they passed by yet deeply impacting my way of seeing the city. At first, I would wait until they passed to shoot because I had no idea how to frame them, later I would use them almost always to create my frame to shoot in.
I can count on both hands as to how many times I have been on a train in the states, maybe more if I were to include the monorail in Seattle. This was just not a part of my life, but it was one that I would often see cinematically, and my imagination would soar at the thought of train travel and how “romantic or nostalgic” it might be. I have never been someone I would classify as a “train geek” or anything like that. For much of my life, I have been surrounded by people who are exactly that, self-described train geeks and aficionados, people who tirelessly collected relics from history about trains, travel incredible distance to observe them and regale you with stories of what once was and hwo it used to be. My observations really come from a cinematic background and growing up in Seattle, we didn’t have any kind of system that would allow for this kind of explorations. Cars, buses and bikes were how we got around, not to mention plenty of walking. But I did see the movie “Stand By Me” about a dozen times and of course read the Stephen King novella the film is based on titled “The Body” about as many. So you see…cinema.
I love to sit in the window and watch the city roll by as if the window itself were some kind of cinematic movie screen reserved just for me. I am very impressionable when it comes to the motion and movement of the tram and how the bouncing light works within that frame, so being on a tram is perfect for me as an observer and film buff. Interesting reflections, shadows, colors and shapes make for a dynamic landscape I am inspired to shoot not to mention the incredible cast of characters who ride the trams and fill the seats. Each piece of the tram is something that I marvel at and is worthy of second looks, both inside and out, but I secretly enjoy being close tot he cabin where the driver resides and watch from over their shoulder. I enjoy the pedestrian nature of the tram and will often use the ground as a staging point to gather shots of the rush of commuting or stake out the rear window for some shots of the inside through the window looking back. Sometimes I even use the tram tracks themselves as a line to draw the eye forward at the end of which lurks the tram ready to deliver its cargo of citizens for the day. The tram is a constant part of my new life here and I love to celebrate it as much as I can.
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to capture the tram first in the city of Poznan for as many years as I did. There is a very present nostalgic feel that permeates the air and the trams really help to solidify it and make it alive plus the local pride people have for the older trams is astounding (they will complain about them, but they smile whenever anyone says Bimba). Some of you may remember that I owned a small coffee shop in the center of Poznan and it was during the mornings when I would leave the house very early that I was able to witness so much of what the trams meant to me. It was here in the early morning hours of long shadows and slanted light that a little bit of magic sparked to life. And during the 5 years of having Bigfoot Coffee Shop open, I was able to see a little bit of that magic generally with a tram cruising down Sw. Marcin or Fredry, sometimes across the Warta river. Someday, I will write about some of my fun times in that shop…please remind me or comment that you would like me to, but for now…its trams.
Poznan offered me the space to grow as a photographer and learn my new environment while looking out the window of some of my favorite trams. In my minds eye, there is a long-term story that has been developing over the years, one that I hope will see the light of day sometime as a series or a book. The story is what I simply call “Tram Stories” and they are collections of images from all of my times riding these trams taken in every season over the last 7 years. They include the daily life of people riding them, reflections of time and history seen in the window as the person goes about their day. These observations are of curiosity and love, filled with nostalgia and sense of timelessness. Little vignettes of a much larger picture. In a way this post is a prelude to what it could be.
Before leaving Poznan and the recent move to Warsaw, I had the opportunity to actually drive a tram! I never dreamed of such a possibility, but I am certainly happy that it happened. Luckily it was filmed or I may not believe it myself, but yes, I drove a tram….thanks to MPK Poznan. What a cool experience that was! This was a gift to me from the city of Poznan for all of the years of shooting a simple piece of life that sometimes go unnoticed and unappreciated, but made many people smile along the way. I would often see a tram driver waving to me as they recognized me from their routes and I even had a time when I exited a tram and was passing the driver door when it popped open and I hear “Czesc Erik!” backed by a big grin and a thumbs up. I never expected any of that. I was simply shooting what often made me smile…little vignettes of life that seemed like slivers of magic and often made me feel like a little kid again.
My time here in Poland has been nothing short of inspirational, but the trams really delivered home that message for me. I hope that you have enjoyed this “ride” and I look forward to taking you on another journey soon.