Black Box Projects

Joni Sternbach
The Passengers

Black Box Projects is delighted to present The Passengers, an exhibition of early vintage work by Joni Sternbach shot on a Leica camera in the New York subway 1975-1980.

Known internationally for her decade-long study of surfers and surf culture rendered in the wet-plate collodion tintype process, Joni Sternbach began her photographic career capturing anonymous figures in the New York streets and subway in the 1970's before later delving into antique photographic processes.

In a time when street photography immortalised the nameless individuals defining modern cities from an observational and often voyeuristic standpoint, Sternbach establishes herself as a humanist photographer in The Passengers series adeptly approaching anonymous subjects with sensitivity and empathy.

The photographs of The Passengers are raw - photos are often blurred, shaky and grainy. The images capture the grit of 1970's New York, as well as the tenderness of human interaction and the individual human spirit. Sternbach is an intimate observer capturing within these anonymous portraits the beauty of the mundane, as well as the beauty found in the tenderness of touch and in the quiet moments observed deep underground amidst the noise, crowds and chaos of the New York City subway. The consideration to the individuals Joni Sternbach captures in her stolen portraits of The Passengers reveal the skill and sensitivity of the artist, a talent that is honed and perfected in her later tintype portraits.

The Passengers is a collection of vintage silver gelatin prints from 1975-1980 from the artist's archive. All images are also available as modern prints in limited edition.

Sternbach’s work is held in many international and public collections including the National Portrait Gallery in London, Joslyn Museum, MOCA Jacksonville, Nelson Atkins Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She is the recipient of several grants including NYFA and CAPS and Santo Foundation. Her upcoming monograph will be published in 2021 by Chroma Chronicle Books.

Sternbach received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts and a MA from New York University and International Center of Photography in 1987, where she taught for over a decade. She is an advisory board member and founding faculty at Penumbra Foundation in NYC, where she teaches wet plate collodion. Joni Sternbach lives and works in New York City.