Yaw Addae became a taxi driver in New York City as a means to an end: he wanted to earn enough money to found his production company, Yaw Photography. But he found an unexpected outlet for his creative spirit on the job: a portrait project called “Riding Yellow” in which he turns his camera to the passenger in the backseat of his yellow cab.
The photo series, recently highlighted on Instagram’s official account, features compelling passengers and passersby whom Addae encounters in his line of work.
“I could not just drive a taxi and be satisfied,” he told INSIDER. “I had to be myself, my creative self.”
He earned a degree in economics, but graduated when the market crashed. So he switched gears, returning to school to pursue his passions -- photography and media.
He came up with the idea for the 'Riding Yellow' series not long after he started driving a cab to help support his family and fund his creative dreams.
Not every passenger makes it into 'Riding Yellow.' Addae said he looks for people who are open to talking and connecting with him.
'Some people, depending on what they're going through that day, don't want to be bothered with anything, and they don't want to talk, and I respect that,' he said. 'It's not every passenger. I would say one in three say yes to the project when I tell them about it.'
He asks passengers what they'd like to listen to, offering to connect their phones via Bluetooth to gauge their interest in having a conversation.
'It's all about energy,' he said. 'When I say hello when they come in, how they respond to me tells me 'Oh, I can talk to this passenger,' or 'No, she doesn't want to be bothered,' or 'He doesn't want to be bothered.''
'On occasion, they don't even have to be my passenger,' he said. 'They could be on the street, walking by, seeing me take photos of another person, and strike up a conversation.'
'I find inspiration from humanity,' he said. 'I think everyone is an artist, not because you have a camera, or a pen, or paint to draw. I think even the way you talk to people to get to them is an art, because you have to be able to reach them, you know?'
Yaw views the backseat of a yellow cab as a symbol of humanity, as it is shared by strangers, each on their way to and from somewhere.
'None of them know who came before them or who will come after them, but I see it all,' he said. 'I realised early on that people have one thing that connects us all, and that is our humanity.'
His answer? 'I think it's good to be different because it makes everything work,' he said. 'I'll give you this analogy -- a car for example. Look at how many different components from different supplies are coming together making the whole thing move.'
'No matter what position you are in life, it's good to accept that if you're not happy with that position, you can definitely change and fit in another spot that is maybe designed for you specifically.'
'I want to create original content. That's basically where my focus is, to just create and hopefully help change the world in a positive way,' he said. 'Right now I'm having fun, I don't know how to make money from this and I'm not thinking about that. I'm just focusing on having fun with it.'
'Just because I don't understand something doesn't mean it's crazy,' he said. 'It's good if we don't judge others...You don't know the history or the situation that brought them to this particular point in their life.'
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