#tube270: One man’s quest to Instagram all 270 London Underground stations

Mike's winning photo of Tottenham Court Road that inspired @tube270

Mike’s winning photo of Tottenham Court Road that inspired @tube270

It all began with a photograph of Tottenham Court Road that won Mike Strevens the title ‘Photobox Mobile Photographer of the Year’.  Then, last year he discovered Instagram.

But don’t expect to find any holiday snaps or #lunchtoday pics there.  At @tube270, Mike strictly shoots the subterranean and has devoted the last four months to capturing a whopping 196 London Underground stations through the small square viewfinder that is Instagram.

“When I discovered mobile photography I got a little bit obsessed and there was just something about the underground stations being packed and then suddenly finding them empty that I found fascinating, so I set myself a challenge to shoot all 270 underground stations before my baby is born in November.”

Abandoned stations

As anyone who has ever visited Covent Garden will know, finding tube stations completely empty is not easy, and yet somehow Mike has managed to capture both empty platforms and escalators in the greatest depth.

“My photos are a bit of an illusion really – I usually go to the stations at weekends and the platforms are usually only empty for a few seconds so you have to be patient – there’s a knack to it.”

Escalators at Bermondsey Underground Station, 15 October 2013

Escalators at Bermondsey Underground Station, 15 October 2013. Photo by Mike Strevens

Lol sleeping commuters

Tube photos are nothing new of course, and there is a whole genre on Instagram devoted to commuter photos with hashtags like #tubesleepers, #subwaysaroundtheworld, and #subwaythroughmyeyes (although #subwayproblems is something entirely different).

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Mike says he finds taking photos of the person opposite slightly dishonest though, although he points out that the discreetness of camera phones has made taking photos and videos of people doing embarrassing things easier than ever.  The volume button on iPhone headphones can even be used to snap a pic!

The best and worst of the underground

While Mike has not yet photographed his favourite station (something about saving the best for last, the station name which he has urged Found Underground not to reveal), Gants Hill on the central line is one of his favourites so far.

“It’s modelled on the Moscow Metro which makes it really unusual as there’s loads of pink tall arches – it’s really spectacular and yet it’s just a suburban station in Essex.”

Gants Hill underground station, opened in 1947, was designed by architect Charles Holden, and is a small corner of Russia in East London. Photo by Mike Strevens.

Gants Hill underground station, opened in 1947, was designed by architect Charles Holden, and is a small corner of Russia in East London. Photo by Mike Strevens.

“The oddest though has to be Stepney Green, it has this Edwardian sign ‘to the trains’, that’s over 100 years old and it just looks like something out of Jack the Ripper.”

And the worst?  Well, apparently it’s south west London, and in particular Richmond and Wimbledon, which were both pretty dire, but we won’t talk about them.

'To the trains' at Stepney Green.  Flickr Creative Commons.

‘To the trains’ at Stepney Green. Flickr Creative Commons.

Growth of mobile photography through editing apps

I asked Mike if he would have gotten more out of his photos if he had taken them with a traditional camera, but he thinks cameraphones are just so much more practical to capture a moment with as they’re always in our pockets.  He also can go straight to editing without having to transfer the photos to his computer, using apps like Snapseed and Vscocam to lower and higher contrasts, add vignettes and so on.

Snapseed on iPhone

Snapseed on iPhone

Filters on Vscocam

Filters on Vscocam

iPhone No1 device for Flickr

“[Mobile photography] has become an area in its own right, it’s become a movement – the winning photo at the National Portrait Gallery this year was a photo taken on an iPhone – the iPhone is also the most popular device for photos uploaded onto Flickr.”

What photos have you taken on your commute?  Share your favourite tube Instagram moments using the hashtag #foundunderground.

For now though, we leave you with some of our favourites from the photos Mike uploaded this week:

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