Old 08-24-2008, 03:28 PM   #1
travsirocz
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Default Some work of Plowden

In Janusz blog he touched on a photographer named David Plowden.

http://railpixcritic.blogspot.com/

David's website http://www.davidplowden.com/index.html

Click on archive to see some of his work. I really like about 90% of his work in the various subjects, but I only like around 10% of his railroad photos. Opinions?
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Old 08-24-2008, 04:30 PM   #2
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I've been through the book Vanishing Point a number of times, trying to learn from it what I can. I've just looked at the website and maybe 60-75% of the shots are in the book.

My basic reaction is that I simply don't care for his style, either in composition or in light. The RR stuff, it just doesn't move me for the most part (one exception being the station platform shot with people). The non-RR stuff, too dry, too lacking in life. The bridges especially, something I believe he is noted for; there are some shots there I like (Market St Harrisburg, Old Trails Bridge, Tunkahannock, Skew Truss Lehighton, Astoria Bridge) but many of them no, pure abstracts without interesting dimensions. I especially dislike the "stand at the end of the bridge and take a symmetrical shot down its length" approach which result in images that bore me.

It has been suggested to me that there are riches there to be uncovered, and perhaps I do not have the sophistication to appreciate them yet, but as of now I am not a fan and sometimes I just don't see the point, or I see what may be the point and I find it not of interest to me.

I had thought about blogging the book but only 10-15% of it is RR shots and the blog entry would have to be without images, so I don't see the point right now. Maybe down the road. I would like to blog the Steinheimer book.
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Old 08-24-2008, 07:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC
I've been through the book Vanishing Point a number of times, trying to learn from it what I can. I've just looked at the website and maybe 60-75% of the shots are in the book.
Interesting discussion. Personally I have been a huge fan of Plowden's work, and found it to be quite inspirational. To each his own. I will say this. Plowden is highly respected in the fine art photography world, and I find it interesting, as a lot of photos in this field can be quite abstract. There is however nothing abstract about Plowden's work, what so ever. I also like that he has taken the time to document things that have disappeared in the American Landscape. For me his railroad images are wonderful, in that they capture more than just the train. (Which is often, but certainly not always, the case here with posted photos on Railpictures). Plowden captures the feel and essence of the railroad, and its respective environment as a whole. Most often many photos only show merely the train, devoid of people and its environment, which for me, this approach is too one-dimensional.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC
I had thought about blogging the book but only 10-15% of it is RR shots and the blog entry would have to be without images, so I don't see the point right now. Maybe down the road. I would like to blog the Steinheimer book.
If you are interested in blogging Plowden's railroad work, I would highly recommend his book "A Time of Trains". It is strictly about his railroad photography, as where Vanishing Point is about his entire body of work, which railroads are only a single aspect of it. I suspect you might come away with a different view point about his work, but maybe not. In any event, it is a better review of his railroad work.

I have received an advance copy of Jim Shaugnessy's book, I posted this on the Yahoo Groups Observation Car about it:

"A good friend, and well respected Canadian author warned me about how good this book is, and said he got goose bumps looking at it. I thought this was quite a comment coming from this particular individual, to be so passionate, so I thought this must REALLY be good. Well, now that I have had a chance to take a look at it: I get it. I am still "soaking it in".

I will let other's review it, but have a few comments. My personal opinion is that this book quite possibly sets a new gold standard in terms of reproduction, design and photo selection. The book was printed in Italy, and the photos seem to jump off the page. It is like looking at B&W prints, all are tack sharp, and with full tonal range. It's easily a B&W peer to Hundman's
"Milwaukee Road", it is that good. I was always aware of Jim's talent, but at the CRPA presentation in Lake Forrest 2 years ago, I was blown away with his presentation: human interest, night photos, images simply dripping of "Railroading". I was wondering if the book would have the richness of the images that were in his presentation; fortunately it goes above and beyond. Jim's work has not been in the same lime-light as compared with other contemporaries such as Phil Hastings, largely due to a greater amount of Hastings work having been published. This book changes that, and is a wonderful tribute to Mr. Shaugnessy's work, and is a wonderful time-capsule into the world of railroading.

It has earned a top-shelf spot in my bookcase.

Hats off to Mr Brouws at amazing effort- The craft of railroad photography just got better with the addition of this book."

Out of curiosity- which books do you consider to have great railroad photography in them?
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Old 08-24-2008, 10:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinderpath
There is however nothing abstract about Plowden's work, what so ever.
Well, there can be a difference in usage of the term abstract, as well as a difference in opinion as to what a work is trying to convey. Perhaps I am presuming abstraction because I can not find another notion of what an image is about. But I will say this, I should not use the term to refer to the broad swath of his work, and I'll take that back, then. That was a mistake.

However, what, besides abstraction, are plates 109, 192 of Vanishing Point about? Then there is an image like plate 220, which is not an abstraction but is a lifeless image, which I take therefore to be somewhat of a "study" of the lines and textures of the barn. I'm not a big fan of studies in general.

And what of, say, plate 201? Having looked at these again, I feel bad about using the term abstraction because it is not at all what I meant. But what is this shot about? A farm? A farm after a neutron bomb ('70s reference)? Or plate 206? Besides documentation of a barn interior (I respect documentation, heck, that is what I mostly shoot, but I don't put documentation in the realm of artistry), what is this composition but an abstract formed from metal and wall?

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For me his railroad images are wonderful, in that they capture more than just the train.
Of course, that doesn't make it fine art. And, as you said, lots of people on RP do that as well. The question is, what did he accomplish in the realm of RR photography that was exceptional? Let me first note that all I have to go on is the Vanishing Point book, which does not have many RR images. And, of course, to the extent his work was elevated above his times, I will not be sensitive to that, as I am evaluating his images in comparison to contemporary ones; I have no interest in the history or evolution of rail photograhy.

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Plowden captures the feel and essence of the railroad, and its respective environment as a whole. Most often many photos only show merely the train, devoid of people and its environment, which for me, this approach is too one-dimensional.
Frankly, to me Plowden is weak in this area, especially when there are no railroaders but even when they are there. Well, there is some feel, but little context. Consider a few images. Plate 2 could have been shot by anybody, and has. Plate 4, maybe a little something extra. Plate 6, far from the most interesting running gear shot; I intend to blog about running gear shots sometime, maybe soon, but probably this year. Plate 10; I have seen a number of equally interesting running-gear-interaction shots. Plate 19, the composition does little for me. Plate 15 is nice, for all I know the first time such a shot was done or the first time it was done well, but looking at it from today (and let's be clear, that is what my particular viewpoint is; I am not trying to put myself into a different era) it is very nice but not more; another steam engine surrounded by steam shot. Plate 12; interesting snow effects, great mix of whites and darks, but I'm not a fan of the place the engine is truncated; it is as though the majesty of the steamers is gone and nothing takes the place of that sensation.





Quote:
If you are interested in blogging Plowden's railroad work, I would highly recommend his book "A Time of Trains". It is strictly about his railroad photography, as where Vanishing Point is about his entire body of work, which railroads are only a single aspect of it. I suspect you might come away with a different view point about his work, but maybe not. In any event, it is a better review of his railroad work.
Yes. At the time I made a conscious decision to get Vanishing Point, to see the broader scope of his work. I am unlikely to get a second Plowden book, in great part because there are lots of photographers out there and not so much money for books, and not so much time to contemplate them.

Quote:
I have received an advance copy of Jim Shaugnessy's book,
I am eagerly awaiting its arrival!

Quote:
Out of curiosity- which books do you consider to have great railroad photography in them?
I can't say. I can think of lots of images, but I am only now starting my collection of books, having up till this time been purchasing primarily nature books, some landscape.

BTW, consider this post and my thoughts in general a rough draft, and I look forward to hearing other opinions, much as I was glad to run across Alex's review. I have gone through the Plowden book two or three times but I don't think I grasp it all yet. Also, having flipped through the book again just now, I realize that some of my comments were oriented toward a particular set of (the many!) images that were on my mind just now. However, I am not (yet?) a fan of the volume of work as a whole.
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