Why Would They Throw Old Subway Cars Into The Sea?

Categories: Recycle

Most people look at construction sites and machinery and see nothing more than concrete and steel. Stephen Mallon looks at them and sees both a surreal beauty and the wonder of their engineering. In 2009, Mallon made a big splash with “Brace for Impact: The Salvage of Flight 1549,” a series of photographs documenting the salvaging of the US Air flight that airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger managed to safely emergency-land in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

The images Mallon produced during his two-week effort with Weeks Marine have been in exhibitions in New York, Miami, St. Louis, and Philadelphia and featured on television such as MSNBC, NBC, Wired.com, New York Magazine, Resource Magazine, Vanity Fair, and CBS News. In 2010 Stephen’s following solo exhibition “Next Stop Atlantic” was received with great praise from the likes of The New York Times, National Public Radio, GQ, Flavor Wire, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Feature Shoot, GQ, and My Modern Metropolis. This body of work has been shown at the Look 3 photo festival in Charlottesville, Miami, St. Louis, and Rome.

In the spring of 2012, Stephen Mallon unveiled his 3rd solo exhibition “The Reefing of USS Radford.” This is a continuation of his ongoing series “American Reclamation,” which chronicles and examines the American recycling industry. The work has been reviewed and discussed by the Elizabeth Avedon in Photographer’s I, The Blaze, WIRED, Pro Photo Daily, Lenscratch, and Resource Magazine to name a few. Mallon’s projects often require months, or years of production. His short film about the transportation and installation of the new Willis Avenue Bridge was created from over 30,000 still images. The film “A Bridge Delivered” was reviewed by the Wall St Journal, New York Magazine, GQ, PDN, and WIRED. It was then screened in five festivals in New York, Los Angels and Bristol, England.


His latest project, commissioned by the New York Times Magazine sent him to South Korea to photograph “The Biggest Ship in the World”, the largest floating structure ever built. His work has been exhibited widely, and he has been commissioned by a wide range of clients, including the New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Publicis, Sudler & Hennessey, and MAYTAG.

Mallon’s photos have been honored by Communication Arts, Photo District News, The New York Photo Festival, The Lucie Awards, International Color Awards, and Photo Lucida’s Critical Mass top 50 of 2011. Stephen is also a leader in the photo community. Since 2002, he has been a board member of the New York chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers and served as president from 2006 to 2009. He speaks frequently at universities and participates in student portfolio reviews giving feedback on their work. He lives in New York with his wife Sascha and their young daughter Josephine.

It’s not every day you see a series of photos clearly documenting someone with a front end loader pushing industrial waste directly into the ocean without any care of secrecy or stealth. Photographer Stephen Mallon captured this series of pictures over three years to document the unusual methods that New York City uses to dispose of its subway cars, but before you jump to conclusions, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, because this dumping has a secret purpose!

New York City has developed a special way to get rid of broken-down subway cars…

Custom barges are loaded high with subway cars and carried out to the cold icy depths in the middle of the ocean.

They use construction equipment to push the subway cars over the edge, splashing into thewaters…

The cars go over the edge one by one…

It may seem like a wasteful act of reckless pollution, but there is a deeper purpose behind this odd method of disposal…

Each subway car will be left on the ocean floor, to be assimilated into the ecosystem.

Over time, every surface will be covered in life, creating an artificial coral reef system.

Every metal pipe, edge, ridge, and corner provides surface area for coral ecosystem.

Here’s what it looks like after 5 years…

… and here’s what it looks like after 10 years.

The process of creating artificial reefs has been a great help to restoring areas damaged by human activity. Engineers have even sunk an entire aircraft carrier to turn it into a reef ecosystem. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have damaged the ocean floor in the first place, but steps like this can help to repair the destruction.

At first, Stephen Mallon‘s photos tend to lead viewers to jump to the conclusion that this is a terrible act of pollution, but the truth is something much more beautiful. This tension and discomfort is what makes his work so powerful.

via StephenMallon

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