hannah ryan

Hannah La Follette Ryan featured in New York Magazine

MFA Photo/Video student Hannah La Follette Ryan (often working under the Instagram handle @subwayhands) has been covertly documenting the emphatic, twisted hand yoga of subway riders since 2015. Ryan explains her obsession with the hands of her fellow subway passengers:

"I moved to New York six months after I graduated college in 2014. I started 'Subway Hands' pretty much instantly, within a month of moving. I think that was largely because I arrived in New York and was just so excited and overwhelmed simultaneously by becoming a New Yorker that I was looking around the city with wide eyes and found myself on the subway a lot because I’m a nanny and I’m always commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I found myself people watching a lot and on the subway noticing how you see every kind of person and every energy represented. I was very struck by how expressive that space is."

New York Magazine recently gave Ryan some spring accessories to photograph in her element: the subways of New York City. The following are some samples of what she captured.

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New York Times article featuring photographs by Hannah Ryan

This month, current MFA Photo/Video student Hannah Ryan's photographs are featured in the New York Times article "Why You Can’t Stop Looking at Other People’s Screens."

Ryan’s work “Subway Hands” as featured in NYT

Ryan’s work “Subway Hands” as featured in NYT

As the article asserts: "Other people’s screens are everywhere, once you start to notice them. They’re collectively most obvious at night, as they bob through the city, creating a new, hand-height layer to the ambient lights, or when held up at concerts, like lighters. During the day, other people’s screens hover around us as we wait in line for coffee, or as we sit and drink our coffee, or as we take our coffee on the bus or train.


Other people’s screens are windows into their lives, and brains, and relationships and work — into their politics, anxieties, failures and addictions."

Ryan's photographs offer a voyeuristic look at the hand-held screens of strangers and are a fitting compliment to the Times article's discussion on "shoulder-surfing"-- a term used to describe glancing at the screens of passerby.

Ryan's photographs are part of her ongoing project titled "Subway Hands," which has garnered a wide following on Instagram. To view more of Ryan's work, visit her feed (@subwayhands on Instagram).

To read the full New York Times article with Ryan's images, follow this link.