Intimate Portraits of Train Travelers Across America

In 2011, photographer McNair Evans took a train trip from his hometown in North Carolina to Virginia to explore a slice of America through our passenger rail system. He’s been taking a biannual, two-week long trip via Amtrak ever since — what he describes as a “public art residency.” During his journey, Evans photographs fellow passengers and the landscape, recording personal stories.

“I eat, sleep, and live with my subject,” Evans writes in a statement. “Because long distance trains service many small towns between major destinations, passengers and crew circulate constantly. Collaboration is essential, and each passenger writes about their travels, where they’re coming from, and where they hope to go.”

From an Amish family traveling to Tijuana for medical treatment to a young Miami man leaving an eye-opening visit to Manhattan, the collective documentation creates a fascinating portrait of the American people and sheds an intimate light on the lives of strangers we absently gaze at across the train, bus, and subway aisle.

In Search of Great Men, presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, is on view at San Francisco City Hall through November 18.