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All Aboard Eastman House for TRAINS! Photography Exhibitions
Hot Shot Eastbound at the Iaeger Drive-In, 1956. Photograph by O. Winston Link, gelatin silver print. O. Winston Link Museum.

ROCHESTER, NY.- George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film presents a series of three photography exhibitions titled “TRAINS!” Oct. 11 to Jan. 25, 2009. Headlining the exhibitons, which spans three centuries of train photography, will be the best work of master O. Winston Link, complemented by train images from the Eastman House collections and a contemporary video installation by British artist Andrew Cross.

“These exhibitions consider the roles of the railroad in photographs. It appears as technological triumph, violator of nature, symbol, myth and nostalgic evocation of a better, nobler past,” said Dr. Alison Nordström, Eastman House curator of photographs. “Even if you have never ridden a train, you know about trains. We invite you to build on this knowledge as you experience these pictures. In addition, we ask you to remember that the train has long been an object of wonder and delight and to bring that sensibility to these pictures.”

The “TRAINS!” exhibitions explore this power in images of the past and the present, drawing, not only on the remarkable collections held at Eastman House, but on the holdings of other museums and the work of contemporary artists. We invite you to bring your own connection to trains — whether practical, emotional or intellectual — to our presentation of this wide selection of important photographs.

The three exhibitions of “TRAINS!”

Steam and Steel: The Photography of O. Winston Link

This exhibition includes many of the best-known photographs by master O. Winston Link, including his famous series of dramatic night photographs of America’s last steam locomotives in the late 1950s. Link is heralded by many as the greatest railroad photographer of all time.

Tracks: The Railroad in Photographs from the George Eastman House

A survey of railroad images from around the world, covering more than 160 years of photographic history including works by Lewis W. Hine, Aaron Siskind, William Henry Jackson, and Alvin Langdon Coburn.

Passing Time: Video by Andrew Cross

A train spotter since childhood, British artist Andrew Cross creates films that slow our everyday view of high-speed train travel to a game of suspense and anticipation. These experimental videos and their mystery focus on the U.S. rail network. Appearing as stationary photographs at first, the eye begins to notice subtle changes and is unexpectedly interrupted when action occurs.

Steam and Steel: The Photography of O. Winston Link

Ogle Winston Link, known commonly as O. Winston Link, has been revered by many as the most important railroad photographer of all time. He is best known for his black-and-white photography and sound recordings of the last days of steam locomotive railroading in the United States in the late 1950s. A true American master, Link produced night-time photographs of the railroad over a five-year period that ended when the last steam locomotive of the Norfolk & Western Railway was taken out of service in May 1960.

The George Eastman House exhibition Steam and Steel: The Photography of O. Winston Link features more than 100 framed photographs as well as Link's actual photographic and lighting equipment, plus his personal notebooks detailing set-ups, formulas, and exposure details.

The exhibition also will be enhanced with railroad equipment from the era and Link’s own recordings of railroad sounds. In addition, the RIT Model Railroad Club will display a model-train diorama, a recreation of a Link photograph that will lend insight into his workings. The image chosen for recreation is arguably Links’ most famous — “Hot Shot Eastbound at the Iaeger Drive In, Iaeger, West Virginia, 1956,” which features a train buzzing by a drive-in theater filled with shiny cars of the era and a cozy couple in a convertible.

Link (1911-2001) was a Brooklyn-based photographer whose obsession with the vanishing steam locomotive led him to capture their images and their sounds from the mid-1950s to 1960, focusing particularly on the Norfolk and Western Railway, and, incidentally, realizing a number of technical innovations relating to the lighting of night photographs that proved crucial to his success. Link’s documents were important acts of salvage when they were made, but today they provide a comprehensive record of what was once our country’s most important form of transportation and communication and a repository of our hopes, myths and dreams.

Link photographed America as he wished it to forever remain. He sought to make a complete record of the power, beauty, and wonder of the railroad, including its environment and the people who give it life and vitality He created a record of the culture and life along the steam railroad as though it would never die. In his photos, it has not.

Steam and Steel is a collaborative effort between George Eastman House and the O. Winston Link Museum located in Roanoke, Virginia. The rail photography of O. Winston Link is featured at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Virginia, which opened in 2004. The museum celebrates Link's legacy and is housed in the former passenger station of the Norfolk and Western Railway. Link's N&W caboose forms part of the display.

Tracks: The Railroad in Photographs from the George Eastman House

“Type of the modern! emblem of motion and power! pulse of the continent!”

- From “To a Locomotive in Winter” by Walt Whitman

The exhibition Tracks is a survey of more than 80 railroad images from around the world, covering more than 160 years of photographic history, from the George Eastman House's rich collections. It will serve as an intellectual and physical introduction to the Link exhibition.

In a few decades at the beginning of the 19th century, two startling inventions changed human understanding of space and time. The railroad made it possible for people to travel well beyond a day’s walk from the places of their births. The photograph permitted a kind of time travel that made detailed and exact memory possible, even beyond the grave. In the United States, both the railroad and the photograph were essential to the opening of the West and the development of national identity.

“Even today, when the train is less and less important to most of us, its image retains the power to stir our feelings and engage our thoughts,” said Dr. Alison Nordström, curator of photographs at George Eastman House. “Even if you have never ridden a train, you know about trains, whether it be through train watching, hearing the nearby whistle, placing pennies on the tracks, or playing with a model railroad. In this set of pictures, the railroad appears as technological triumph, violator of nature, symbol, myth, and nostalgic evocation of a better, nobler past.”

Tracks features such historically significant images as William Henry Jackson’s “Canyon of the Grand River,” (1885) Alvin Langdon Coburn’s “Pittsburgh Factories,” (1910) Lewis Hine’s series “Railroad Workers and Rail Photos,” (ca 1925) and Aaron Siskind’s series “Pullman Porters” (1935). The exhibition will be divided into four sections, focusing on the train and the city, the train in the wilderness, train workers, and the train as myth and symbol, allowing the public multiple points of access to the ideas the train has represented over time: modernity, progress, communication and the triumph of man over nature.

George Eastman House is the world's oldest photography museum and has a collection of more than 400,000 photographs representing 9,000 photographers. George Eastman House will travel Tracks internationally following its debut in Rochester.

Passing Time: Video by Andrew Cross

The documentation of trains in the 21st century, from 2002 to 2008, is a collection of short video films of U.S. trains and their environments by British artist Andrew Cross. The videos will be shown together for the first time at George Eastman House.

A keen watcher of trains since childhood, Cross has been photographing and filming trains throughout the United States for the past 15 years. Cross creates films that slow our everyday view of travel to a game of suspense and anticipation. Attention is drawn also to the landscape context in which railroads are seen.

Upon reviewing some of Cross’s video work, London newspaper The Guardian noted, “His digital video is shot beside the tracks of the US rail network. We wait. The camera doesn’t move. The day passes. We are at the mouth of the longest tunnel in the US rail network. Birds sing, insects bat the lens. The black tunnel entrance fogs with smoke. No train comes. Somehow this is interesting; all the waiting and expectation, all that time suspended. A track zooms to a distant vanishing point. The clouds are high, the tress in full summer flush. Eventually something happens – and it is certainly unexpected … The pictorial qualities of Cross’s work are important – our place besides the tracks, the blackness of the tunnel’s mouth and where the perspectives lead and mislead us.”

Cross will visit Eastman House Thursday, Oct. 30, to present an illustrated lecture at 6 p.m. in the Dryden Theatre. He will discuss his fascination with trains and the U.S. landscape, including how his new work links North Dakota with his childhood home in Southern England, in his lecture “The Middle of Nowhere—The Center of Everywhere.” Part of the “Wish You Were Here” travel photography lecture series. Included with museum admission.

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