Commute — Photo Series by Cut+Run Editor Stephen Jess Explores the New York Subway During the Pandemic


Cut+Run’s Stephen Jess unites his dual passions for editing documentary style projects and still photography in a series of striking images capturing isolation, resilience, and adaptation in New York’s subway system during the pandemic. 
Going underground during phase 3 of the shut down, Jess turned his lens on people commuting on a system long thought of as being a democratic hallmark of New York: the subway. What he discovered are the exposed inequalities against the familiarity of backdrop and activity. The subjects resonate with various expressions of nervousness, resignation, heightened awareness, determination and an overarching sense of loneliness in one of the most densely populated cities in America. It was a reckoning and catharsis for Jess who, like most creatives, felt the need to document and make during a time of uncertainty and transition. Taking over 12,000 shots in eight days, Jess applied his talent for honing a story through editing to select his final collection

Belfast-born Stephen Jess began his career at The Mill London, before moving to the US where he honed his gift for storytelling as an editor. He received wide acclaim for the feature doc, “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts,” directed by Academy Award®-nominated Scott Hicks, and went on to work extensively in branded content and advertising for major lifestyle brands. 


In addition to short and long-form narratives, Stephen’s passion for portraits and story is evident in his photographic work, which he has pursued via International Center For Photography (ICP) and, as with this latest series, around the streets of New York where inspiration is abundant. View a selection of his photography at

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