a neighborhood photo diary by NYC commuters


Welcome to Tell-A-Commute, the neighborhood photo diary by NYC commuters. Read below for a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the project.

Q. What is Tell-A-Commute?

Tell-A-Commute is a neighborhood photo diary by NYC commuters launched by the artist collective /rive. This diary will feature photos taken by people along their daily commute based on ‘photo missions’ suggested to them through weekly text messages. The project has two goals: first, to encourage people to observe their neighborhood with a fresh eye and second, to create, through all these individual snapshots, a dynamic and ever-growing portrait of New York City’s neighborhoods intersected, and connected, by its train lines.

Q. How does it work?

Just text the word START to 917 746 5505, and you will receive specific instructions. You will first be asked to text your train station and train line you walk to regularly (pick the one closest to your home or work if you take more than one). Over the next days, you’ll receive texts from this number prompting you to take photos of the neighborhood around your station. Text us your photos to add them to our crowdsourced visual map of the city and join us at Platform this September to view the photos mapped by train line.

Q. What do you need to participate?

All you need is a phone that sends text messages and takes photographs (or, if not, a digital camera). Or email us at tellacommute@gmail.com for instructions — and you can email back your photos instead.

Q. Who can participate?

Right now, the project is focused on people who take the subway for at least part of their daily commute. However, feel free to send in photos if you take another form of public transportation (i.e. bus, Metronorth or LIRR) or bike or walk — just indicate the nearest subway station in your first message or in each photo caption. We will try to accommodate your pictures as well on the website!

Q. What are ‘photo missions’?

The photo missions are simple suggestions of things to look for each day and take pictures of while walking to and from the train station. They can be as open-ended or specific as you like. (The more imaginative or subjective you are with interpreting these photo missions, the better!)

Q. Help! I am not getting text messages.

First of all, this service can take up to a minute to receive and send text messages, depending on how many people use it at the same time. Be patient. If you don’t receive anything after a minute, however, double check that you are using the right phone number and that you are using the correct spelling for your keywords (i.e. START). If it doesn’t work after this time, please contact us at tellacommute@gmail.com so that you can participate.

Q. Who are you?

We are /rive, the artist collective that designed this project. Our core/founding members are Samara Smith and A.E. Souzis. Read more about the collective here and visit our own sites here and here.

Q. Do I have to take photos following the instructions of the photo missions exactly?

We would prefer you do follow the photo missions, in order to help the theme of the project (we can then compare and contrast what people see throughout the city – to highlight both commonalities and differences – which we think is the most interesting thrust of the project.) However, if you do see something that doesn’t fit with the photo suggestions but that you think is really interesting, then send us the photos separately (and just indicate in the accompanying text message that this was something unrelated but worthy of note).

Q. Will I be asked to take a lot of photos? How often?

You will be asked to take 3 photos of your neighborhood over a short period. You can choose to take all the photos at once or over time. (We suggest you take each photo shortly after you receive each of the 3 text message prompts.)

Q. I’m worried about privacy – what will happen to my information?

That is a valid fear in general but nothing to worry about here! Tell-A-Commute is a small, independent project that is completely free (except for normal text messaging rates that apply) and has no commercial application. Our goal is simply to produce a collective photo diary that reflects the vibrant and changing NYC and its residents. Any photographs or information shared will only be for the purposes of Tell-A-Commute.

Q. Do you have a copyright policy?

By participating, we assume you have granted us the right to use your photos and captions for this and any future iterations of this project. We will post a curated collection of the photos online, on this website, social media, Flicker and beyond under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike License.  For more information on Creative Commons, visit this site. You will retain the copyright. If you provide us with a name (or pseudonym) we will credit you. We will not sell your images for commercial use but we may display them in future iterations of the projects online or in physical spaces (such as museums, galleries or public installations).  If you have any further concerns, please contact us at tellacommute@gmail.com.