“There is nowhere on Earth weirder than the Columbus, Ohio, Greyhound station at three in the morning,” says Ian Willms, a Canadian photographer.
He challenges me to name a place more unusual. I have no refute.
It’d be wise to trust Willms’ knowledge, as he’s spent over 1,000 hours using the bus line that turned 100 last year.
He is quite aware that this is “definitely contrary to what most people would want to do with their time.”
But his transient nature, as he describes it, complements his subject matter, which will be revealed in a photo series, “The Hound,” that he’s slowly finishing.
Keep scrolling to see the images Willms has published so far.
Willms started the project in the winter of 2013. He divides shooting time into blocks, usually three weeks to a month. 'I've worked on projects where you get a good photo once a week ... With this project, I can find something I'm really into almost every day,' he says.
Photos of strangers he encounters on the bus are a big focus of the series so far. 'You meet people who just got out of jail, people who are taking their whole family one state over to get a job. You meet people who are just out of their minds ... But most of the individuals I've talked to (have) something a bit heavier behind their reasons for travelling.'
'I pull out this little film camera (an old Nikon) that's as old as I am and people think that I'm crazy, which fits in just fine on the Greyhound,' says Willms. He found the camera in a thrift store for $7.49 -- after he'd been robed of his gear while travelling through Oakland, California, for the project. The point-and-shoot has become pivotal to his aesthete.
'It has more of a snapshot look to it,' he says of the Nikon One Touch while recalling a similar camera he took photographs with as a child in the early '90s. 'They would have that same look that I'm getting with this camera ... I like that for the Greyhound (series) because it's been my experience that the Greyhound (bus) is kind of a relic,' he says.
A seasoned photojournalist, Willms is used to approaching and documenting strangers. He chooses people he relates to as his subjects -- people who have a different look. He doesn't see them as people to just share a bus with, or to be wary of, but rather as people to learn from and build relationships with. 'I grew up quite poor so these individuals are kind of my heroes in a way,' he says.
He aims to present his subjects without bias. His biggest inspiration is author Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road,' and more generally the lives and works of beat poets. Says Willms, 'I want to express something about life, and I want to do that in America, but whatever anybody extrapolates from that -- as far as what it says about the country itself -- is up to them. I'm just trying to express the essence of a certain spirit.'
Willms usually chooses his next bus trip based on where his friends live. Once he's picked a friend to visit, he'll slowly make his way to them, connecting through various Greyhound bus routes along the way. His photos are taken primarily at terminals and stops, to avoid bothering passengers while on the moving bus.
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