In the Suburbs: Fairfield photo exhibit sparks memories

Photographer, Barbara (Bobbie) Loss is exhibiting her subway series, "Over and Under the Rails" at the Fairfield University Bookstore Stairwell Gallery throughout July. It's curated by Lee Walther.

Photographer, Barbara (Bobbie) Loss is exhibiting her subway series, “Over and Under the Rails” at the Fairfield University Bookstore Stairwell Gallery throughout July. It’s curated by Lee Walther.

Contributed photo / Lee Walther.

From the time I commuted to Manhattan from Fairfield in the 80s and 90s, I developed a special, albeit necessary relationship with the New York City Subway system. I rode those graffiti-filled trains to my various work locations downtown, crosstown and upper midtown. I sweated, shoulder-to-shoulder with other riders before the wonders of air conditioning made the cars more comfortable. And I remained part of the herd of other commuters and regular subway riders in my morning and evening commutes for more than 12 years.

My subway memories had all but faded until this month when our Fairfield University Bookstore began a month-long photography exhibit on the subways by Barbara (Bobbie) Loss, a gifted photographer of people, events, nature and architectural design. Barbara was also a reading teacher in our Fairfield schools, Bridgeport and Norwalk Community College.

I have continued to study the photos on the days I work at the bookstore and have been absolutely mesmerized by Barbara’s capture of these various subway faces. There’s also the occasional picture of a lovable looking dog in the window.

She has a wonderful gift for letting her subjects speak for themselves through their expressions or lack thereof, the books they are reading, conversations, or the electronic devices in their hands — complete with ear buds to drown out regular subway noise or probably the loud conversations that abound on these trains.

While I read Barbara’s backgrounder on her career and the subway photography, I was anxious to speak with her directly for some additional insights. But I learned she was wrapping up a trip to Florida. Nevertheless, Barbara offered to answer a few questions as she prepared to return home and she was kind enough to respond before leaving for the airport

Her comments offered a real perspective on how she approaches her work.

When asked what prompted her to create this subway exhibition, she said, “Lee Walther, artist and curator, has seen my work over the years. She encouraged me to exhibit some of my images, especially of the many interesting people on my frequent subway excursions. Since I also have been photographing the 125th Street Station almost as an obsession for more than a decade, we decided to include a few 125th Street as well.”

She said one her recent books on the 125th includes several photos that are exhibited but a separate subway book available this fall.

When I touched on Barbara’s feelings today about New York’s subways, she said, “The subway is a wonderful place to see people. During the pandemic, I did not take public transportation. I am glad to be back to observe.”

She told me she got into professional photography through a relative.

“My father’s cousin, Trude Fleischmann, was a famous portrait photographer” Barbara said. “She was very much a part of my childhood. Her subjects were Einstein, Marian Anderson, Hedy Lamar, Eleanor Roosevelt and my sister, brother and me. My regret is that I could have spent a summer in her New York studio. Instead I went to camp. I have tried to make up for it ever since.”

Barbara’s photography exhibit on subways, along with a beautiful painting of the 125th Street Metro North Station sometime in winter, will be on display at the Fairfield University Bookstore through the month of July and is a delightful vignette of subway people and their personalities through the focused lens of her camera.

I’m so glad our events coordinator Nancy decided to include the exhibition for July. For more information about Barbara’s work, her books and where her work has been displayed, her website is www.barbaraloss.com and she is also reachable on Instagram at Barbara.loss.33.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.