This Is What’s Living In New York City’s Subways

A stunning new portrait series reveals an up-close glimpse of the germs growing in New York City’s subway cars.

Brooklyn-based artist Craig Ward rode the city’s 22 subway lines this past summer and used sterilized sponges to collect bacterial samples from hand rails, seats and other surfaces. He pressed the bacteria into petri dishes coated with agar, incubated them and then photographed them at various stages of development.

Ward identified some harmless bacteria that are typically found in human saliva, sweat and skin. For instance, about 75 percent of what he imaged was bacteria native to a human hand, he said. But he also found some more disturbing bacterial species, such as E. coli and a few strains of staphylococcus, New York magazine reported.

A study published in the journal Cell Systems earlier this year showed that more than 500 species of bacteria, including some from foods and some known to cause illness, can be found in the Big Apple’s subways.

“I just think they make for an excellent visual analogy for the diversity of the city at large,” Ward told HuffPost.

“And I hope, after the initial wince, that people will find a little beauty in there,” he said. “It’s only natural, though, that people are taking more away from the contents of the dishes as opposed to the images, but I think as a body of work they make for an interesting and memorable series of photographs.”

Scroll down to see some of the bacteria featured in Ward’s series, “Subvisual Subway.”

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