Argentina is NOT America though. The historic Linea A of the Subte (subway) is a national treasure. Loved and beloved by millions of Argentines who remember the cars from their youth, the cars command the respect and admiration of Argentines just like the Lincoln Memorial, The Grand Canyon or The Statue of Liberty does for Americans.
You wouldn’t think about demolishing Mt Rushmore in favor of more modern, up-to-date renderings of famous Americans would you? The idea that the Linea A cars are being replaced carries the same emotional baggage as putting a mustache on George Washington or shaving Lincoln’s beard. It’s something you just don’t mess with.
In about two weeks I have the first – and only – book about this historic line in Argentina coming out. Set to be published in the middle of February, it’s a complete look at the Linea A, the cars and the people that ride them.
When the cars were recently removed from service, I thought that it would be good, if possible, to get shots of them in storage. Kind of like America in the 50s when people would take photographs of their loved ones resting in the casket – a last snapshot of what was once a vibrant life.
With some help from some friends I was able to find the warehouse where the cars were being stored. Despite repeated promises from the Buenos Aires government to restore the cars and make them available to tourists and transportation junkies, the cars are setting in a storage yard out in the elements.
Surrounded by 8 foot tall concrete walls topped with razor wire, the cars are also protected – and kept from view – by security guards who were none to happy to see this American photographer show up wanting to take pictures.
With me on this mission was Leandro Battle. Leandro has heavily invested in my book about the subway line and since he wanted to protect his investment, he agreed to go along with me and serve as my translator.
I’m glad he did. When I went barging into the storage yard, a guard came charging up. Putting his hand in front of the lens and yelling, I could only guess that he was saying “no pictures”. I kept shooting and proclaiming just as loudly, “No habla espanol”!”
When another guard showed up, I stepped back onto the public sidewalk and let Leandro do what he was there to do – make peace with the guards and let me know what was being said.
Leandro and I had slow but steady luck in getting the guards to call someone in authority with City Government to approve our access to the yard.
In the meantime while we waited, Leandro and I strolled around the block on which the storage yard was located. Spotting a remote TV truck, we talked to the crew and got permission for me to climb to the top of their vehicle and get some photos of the subway cars over the fence.
Finally we were allowed limited access. Escorted by a guard at all times, Leandro walked to the cars and I started shooting as soon as they came into view. Many of the shots will never see the light of day as they are total junk. But when you have an armed guard with you who is looking for almost any excuse to show you the gate, you start taking pictures and you don’t worry about exposure, composition or focus.
And you definitely don’t “chimp” with the camera.
The guard finally had enough of Leandro and I being there and after about 15 minutes he escorted us back to the gate. Still shooting as I walked towards the gate, I grabbed a last few shots knowing that no one else will ever be able to get these shots that I had just taken.