By M. Ross Valentine
Posted February 28, 2007
For many of us railroad photography is not just a hobby, it is a passion. Some of us have been taking pictures of railroad subjects our whole lives, while others are just starting out. This activity is certainly not new: documenting railways is as old as photography itself, over 150 years. When photography was in its infancy, some of the earliest images were of trains. If you take a look at this website two things quickly come to mind: There is a lot of talent here, and that we are not alone in our pursuit of the ultimate photo. People from all over the planet come here because we all have one thing in common: An interest in railroads and photography. It brings us together, on a global scale. This is amazing, and something to be celebrated. Railroad photography however tends to be a solo pursuit, aside from the occasional excursion train, or some of the bigger multi-media events such as Winterail, or Summerail held in the USA, there really is not any organization or event where people who love this hobby can come together, to meet and discuss railroad photography in its past, present and future state. That is until the last few years....
Image © James Shaughnessy
While there are many organizations dedicated to railway preservation, there are none specifically dealing with the preservation and art of railroad photography itself. This is quite ironic as lot of railroad history is documented through photographs. John Gruber, a well known railroad photographer and long-time champion of the hobby, decided to change all of that a few years ago when he founded "The Center For Railroad Photography and Art" as a non-profit arts organization, which has several goals: To be a center where railroad photographers from around the world can come together and meet and learn from each other, both in person, and through the internet. To aid in the preservation of railroad photographs and art work. To explore and push the boundaries of railroad photography, in ways not seen. To bridge a gap between older and younger generations of photographers. To create great photography exhibits, and above all to put railroad photography in a spotlight where it deserves to be: as a legitimate art form, no different that any other type of respected art and photography that currently exist. They were even able to hold an exhibit last year in New York's Grand Central Terminal, receiving much notoriety.
The Center for Railroad Photography and Art (CRPA for short) is located in Madison, Wisconsin and every year holds a conference: "Conversations about Photography". Despite being a public event, it seems to be one of the best kept secrets of the hobby, and is usually in Lake Forrest, Illinois (just north of Chicago) where railroad photographers, magazine and book publishers, art and museum communities come together in a nexus of idea sharing and discussion of the current and future state of the hobby, and its issues, such as security concerns, and photographers rights. To meet old friends and make new ones, and above all to see some of the finest railroad photography ever created. The conference is co-sponsored by Trains Magazine, Railfan and Railroad Magazine and others.
Image © M. Ross Valentine
Conferences in the last few years have included: David Plowden, Tom Garver (O. Winston Link's assistant offering great insight about Link and his work and how his famous images were made), Mel Patrick, Greg McDonnell, Brian Soloman, Joel Jenson, Richard Steinheimer and Shirley Burman, Robert Harr (GN Company Photographer) Mark Hemphill, Kevin Keefe of Kalmbach Publishing, Jim Wrinn editor of Trains Magazine, Fine arts Photographer Jeff Brouws, Steve Crise and others, and an exhibit of Ted Rose's original paintings and photographs, discussed by friend the late Gil Ried.
While the center is off to a great start, one key component is missing: You. An organization is only as strong as its members, and is why I am writing this, as an appeal to you to not only become a member, but to come to the conference and see what we are about, to help us build a greater community of like minded individuals, and to take part in creating a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. There is a lot of room at the table, please join us.
Plans are being finalized for this years conference, which will be held at Lake Forrest College (Just North of Chicago) on March 24th, 2007.
To register and for more information:
This year's event will be outstanding; a few highlights:
Jim Shaugnessy will be on hand to give a presentation about his impressive body of work. Jim is one the great photographers in the league of Mr. Hastings, Plowden and Steinheimer. As many have long admired his work, this will be the first time for many to be able meet him as view his wonderful images first hand.
Misko Kranjec, a professional photojournalist will be presenting work from his homeland of Slovenia, if you have not seen his work, it is truly world-class photography. This will be Misko's first time in the United States, and we're looking forward to his presentation.
Simpson Kalisher is better known in the fine arts world as opposed to railfan circles. Simpson created an impressive body of railroad work in the 1940's-50's in both photos and sound recordings. There will also be an exhibit of Mr. Kalisher's prints after the days presentations.
Image © M. Ross Valentine
Walter Zullig will be presenting information about Rail Photographers rights, Mr Zullig is a New York Attorney, and has been at the fore-front of this issue, which should make for some interesting discussion.
Steve Barry of Railfan and Railroad Magazine will be presenting about creative photography.
John Roskoski will be presenting his fantastic multi-media program "Surf and the Southern Pacific".
A first ever panel discussion with Misko Kranjec, Steve Crise, Gregg McDonnell, and Steve Barry, and others moderated by Jeff Brouws will discuss rail photography shifting from the print world to the Internet.
The winners of the annual Center for Railroad Photography and Art Photo Contest will be presented to the conference attendees and will be published in Railfan and Railroad. A cocktail reception and photo exhibit at the Glenn Rowin house at Lake Forrest College will follow these presentations, and a chance to get books autographed from several authors on hand.
Sunday March 25 9am-12pm will be an additional workshop on digital archiving and workflow methods using iView software by myself.
We hope to see you there!