All photos by Luke Kingma for Untapped Cities
Since 2001, performance artists Improv Everywhere have surprised and delighted the unsuspecting public with large scale, flash events across the country. The most celebrated of these is the ‘No Pants Subway Ride,’ a rare chance for young people to show off the complexion of their upper thighs, often to the horror and disgust of onlookers.
For 11 years, it was immensely popular. We simply couldn’t get enough of it. But as time went on, and as the event’s profile continued to rise, the No Pants Subway Ride sacrificed its most critical advantage—the element of surprise. After all, ‘improv’ and ‘regularly scheduled national event’ don’t quite go hand in hand. Luckily for us, they found a solution.
The date was set—January 12, 2014. Participants from all walks of life answered the call, meeting at predetermined spots around the city to get organized. Though we were all so different from one another, we did share one thing together; one banner raised over our heads; one mission and purpose; one commonality—cameras.
The first annual Journalists and Photographers Subway Ride was born. The premise was simple – bring the bulkiest, most expensive recording device possible, be it a Nikon D4, Canon XL1 or Apple iPad, and go underground. Our task was more daunting—convince the internet that an authentic improvisational event had happened. We were resolved to succeed.
The turnout, it turns out, was unprecedented. New Yorkers showed up in droves with their fanciest equipment, boarded the trains at formulaic intervals, and rattled passengers. “What do you think of the event?!” one camerawoman asked just seconds after entering the train and pinning a microphone to a stranger’s shirt. The targeted passenger, who didn’t have time to process that an event was happening in the first place, declined to comment.
Successes like these continued through the afternoon. When the ride was over, we congregated in Union Square, where event participants had time to flex their equipment in the largest electronics expo since CES. We had only brought a Nikon D5000, and therefore didn’t feel confident enough to stick around too long, but what we did see was astounding. We swear we even spotted a Bolex at one point.
…But did it work?
A quick google search offers a resounding “YES.” The world remains convinced of the authenticity of the No Pants Subway Ride, all thanks to those who made the Journalists and Photographers Subway Ride happen. Seriously, the passengers totally didn’t see it coming; they were probably too distracted by all the cameras. Job well done.