41 Fascinating Photos of the NYC Subway From the 70s and 80s

Jump into our time machine as we travel back to New York in the 1970s and 1980s to ride the subway and soak in all the grit and vibrance the iconic system had to offer. As is well documented, the subway was an often dangerous, invariably colorful, and absolutely integral part of life in the big city. While a mere 41 photos doesn’t begin to capture it, this collection serves as a tribute to a bold and spirited era of the Big Apple.

1. Circa 1980

A black-and-white photo of four people sitting on a subway bench. The group consists of two men and two women, all engaged in reading newspapers or magazines. The subway car is marked with graffiti on the walls above their heads.

2. High school girls riding the subway in Far Rockaway circa 1978

Four young women in school uniforms sit relaxed on a graffiti-covered subway train. Two sit together on a bench on the right side, one lounges with her legs across a seat, and another sits on the left side. Daylight filters through the windows.

3. Young woman waiting for the subway in 1980

4. The Ramones head to a gig at CBGBs in 1975

A black and white photo of a subway car. A group of four individuals with long hair and wearing sunglasses, casual clothes, and leather jackets sit together on the right. Other passengers include older individuals seated on the left and a man standing near the door.


A person holding a baseball bat in a subway car with graffiti-covered walls, wearing a dark leather jacket. The individual is bent over and facing the camera, the subway scene appears gritty and urban.

6. Subway newsstand in 1985

A newsstand in a subway station offers a variety of magazines and newspapers. The vendor is seated inside, while a man stands nearby, reading a magazine. Another individual is walking past the newsstand. The station appears to be slightly worn with visible tile walls.

7. “Pope Shot” in 1981

8. Guardian Angels riding the subway

9. Guardian Angels preparing to patrol the subways in 1980

A group of people wearing matching "Guardian Angels" shirts and berets stand on a staircase. They exhibit determined and confident poses, with some crossing their arms and one in front raising his fist. The setting appears to be an urban environment.

10. Headed to the beach in 1978

A black and white photo of people sitting on a train. The passengers include a person reading a book, a person in a striped outfit sitting on a folding chair, and others engaging in various activities. The walls are graffitied, and a tourism advertisement is visible.

11. Kim Gordon riding the subway in 1975-1976

A woman with a somber expression sits alone on a subway train, wearing a coat with a fur collar and a shirt featuring a pair of lips. The background shows graffiti and advertisements above the windows, with reflections slightly visible on the glass. The photo is in black and white.

12. Keith Harring riding the subway in 1983

Black and white photo of a man sitting alone on a bench inside a graffiti-covered subway car. Another train is visible outside through the open doors, and the tiled subway platform walls show more graffiti. The atmosphere feels gritty and urban.



A uniformed police officer stands next to a German Shepherd police dog at a subway entrance. The officer wears a leather jacket and cap, and the dog sits alertly by his side. Signs indicating "Exit" and "Closed" can be seen behind them.


A person in a suit is seen from behind walking into a tunnel-like structure. The top of a large inflatable structure is visible over the roof of the tunnel. The person is holding a rolled-up newspaper with the number 66 visible on the right side of the image.


An elderly woman is playing an accordion while wearing a green coat and a beige headscarf inside a graffiti-covered room. Another person, wearing dark clothing, is sitting and leaning against the wall in the background. A "BARCLAY" poster is partially visible.

17. Michael Jackson in the 80s

A person wearing sunglasses and a coat with gloves is standing in a dimly lit, graffiti-covered space. The walls are adorned with various tags and posters, including one with a smiling individual and vibrant colors. The atmosphere is urban and gritty.


Black and white image of a child wearing a "Kingdom of God" t-shirt, climbing metal bars in front of two gates labeled "NO ADMITTANCE." A sign above the gates reads "ALL PASSES, BADGES CLEAR IN BOOTH." The setting appears to be industrial or institutional.


A person stands in a subway car, facing away from the camera. The person is wearing a bright yellow outfit with crisscross straps, and carrying a beige tote bag over their shoulder. The subway walls are covered with graffiti, and an overhead sign reads "Day and night around the clock.

20. An undercover officer arresting a mugger

In a dimly-lit subway car, an individual in a red jacket and cap points a gun at another person's head, who appears terrified and is shielding themselves with their hands. The subway walls are covered in graffiti.



A person with medium-length hair wearing a light-colored t-shirt is standing in a graffiti-covered space, possibly a subway car. They are holding onto a surface with their left hand and looking towards the camera with a surprised or startled expression.


Black and white photo of a subway car interior with graffiti-covered walls. Four passengers are visible; a woman standing in the center holding a pole, two men seated on the right, and another seated on the left. An Aqueduct advertising poster is on the wall.


A shirtless person is shown from the shoulders up, wearing multiple gold chains around their neck, including one with a cross pendant. The background is dimly lit with a row of overhead lights visible.


A black-and-white photo of four young boys and a woman on a subway. The boys are smiling and posing for the camera, while the woman sits beside them, reading a magazine. The subway walls are covered with graffiti.

26. Matt Dillon riding the subway in 1981

A person wearing a brown leather jacket stands inside a graffiti-covered subway car, holding onto a metal pole. The walls and doors are heavily marked with colorful scribbles and tags. The space around him is adorned with vintage posters and advertisements.


A person wearing a black and white jacket, glasses, and a hat stands against a dark wall with graffiti. They are holding a large boombox. The scene is dimly lit with a street art vibe.


A crowded subway car with numerous passengers standing, holding onto overhead handrails. The walls are covered with graffiti and posters. One ad features a woman's face with the headline, "Real Crack Heros." People are tightly packed, engrossed in the commuter experience.


A black-and-white photo shows a person inside a graffiti-covered bus or train. The person's arm is extended through the window, holding a knife. The scene is tense and edgy, suggesting a moment of potential violence or threat.


A woman with blonde hair, wearing a fur coat, stands inside a graffiti-covered subway car. The orange doors show a view of the city at sunset, while an advertisement above reads "Come home to Carolina." Other passengers are seated in the background.

31. Meryl Streep on the subway in 1981

A woman stands in a subway car holding a pole with one hand. She wears a colorful floral dress and carries a bag over her shoulder. Other passengers sit around, and graffiti covers the walls of the subway car. The lighting is dim, and the atmosphere appears casual.


Two police officers in leather jackets and hats stand on a subway platform. One is in the foreground looking to the left, while the other stands in front of a stopped subway train, partially hidden. The train's sign reads "242 St - Broadway Local" and "South Ferry".


A person is sitting on a subway bench with their arms folded around a book and their legs crossed. They are wearing a hat and a poncho, partially obscuring their face. The subway sign behind them reads "Grand Central Shuttle.


In a dimly lit subway station covered in graffiti, a man in dark clothing walks towards another man who is leaning against a "Wheel of Love" machine. The scene has a gritty, urban atmosphere with other people visible further back in the tunnel.


A woman in a long dress stands on a subway platform holding a magazine and looking towards an approaching train. Another person stands nearby, with a sign above indicating "DOWNTOWN EXPRESS TRAINS" and an exit sign. The train is partially blurred in motion.


Black and white photo of a graffiti-covered subway car. A young girl sits reading a book on the bench, while a woman sits nearby. Two other passengers are seated on the opposite side. Numerous handwritten notes and tags cover the walls and roof of the car.


A young man sits on a train, focusing intently on a large boombox he is holding. The background shows a wall covered in graffiti, and the atmosphere suggests a 1980s setting. The picture captures a moment of concentration and urban culture.


A group of young men stands on a train platform. One man in a green and white striped shirt and cap holds a large boombox. Another man in a black and white striped shirt stands with his arms crossed. diğerleri arka planda. The atmosphere is casual and nostalgic.


A police officer in a black leather jacket stands inside a heavily graffiti-covered subway car, holding onto a vertical pole. Another officer, partially visible, stands near the exit door. Subway ads are visible on the car’s walls.


A person wearing large sunglasses leans against a pole labeled "14." The person is dressed in a checkered shirt and appears relaxed. Another individual, partially visible, stands in the background. The scene is in black and white.


Passengers tightly packed inside a graffiti-covered subway car, viewed through the windows. Their expressions are varied, and many are holding onto the overhead handrails for support. The image captures the crowded and gritty atmosphere of urban public transportation.

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