Rare ’80s Photos of Subway Graffiti Writers and Guardian Angels

January 22, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Christopher Morris is best known for his photographs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Chechnya and the drug war in Colombia, but in the 1980s, he was a 22-year-old photo agency intern from Florida. These are some rare, recently-discovered, previously unpublished photographs on Time LightBox today. This is how he got his start.

A young teen tags a D train subway car window in a South Bronx train yard, 1981. (Image: Christopher Morris/Time LightBox)

“I was actually out looking for criminal elements,” Morris tells LightBox, “trying to prove myself as a photojournalist, and prove myself to myself.”

Morris re-discovered the photos after reading an interview with graffiti writer Tracy 168.

A man about to board a subway car, 1981. (Image: Christopher Morris/Time LightBox)

Morris rode the trains alone — which back in the ’80s, may have been a bit more dangerous for young Floridian intern as himself — but sometimes, he rode with the Guardian Angels volunteer anti-crime group. It’s also fascinating to see ads for the Aqueduct restaurant, which make it seem a lot more pleasant and exciting than the current reality.

Of all photos of the tags and the trash, this one is pretty jarring — Keith Haring chalk “graffiti.”

A poster for the musical Dreamgirls and a Keith Haring chalk drawing, 1981. (Image: Christopher Morris/Time LightBox)