Contemporary Views Along the First Transcontinental Railroad
While construction of the Pacific Railroad ostensibly began during the Civil War, it was not until that great conflict was over that it really got rolling. In a race for government subsidies and land grants, the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, California, while the Union Pacific built westward from Omaha, Nebraska. The two railroads met at Promontory Summit, just north of Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory, on May 10th 1869. It was a watershed moment.
I follow in the footsteps of photographers Alfred A. Hart and A. J. Russell who expertly recorded the construction of the road. But this is not a re-photography project—it is, rather, photography as archaeology. In making a comprehensive series of photographs along the original route, my goal is to give the viewer as strong of a connection as possible to this 19th century engineering marvel through the remaining visual evidence of the human-altered landscape. And while not visible, I also hope to evoke the various peoples involved with the railroad, as well as those affected by it.
— Richard Koenig,
Terrain Vague Berlin
When it comes to radical urban change one must not look as far as Singapore or Beijing. Right in the center of Europe the German capital is — broadly unnoticed — undergoing the final wave of restructuring which will turn the city from a space for inhabitants to the playground of investors, where the quality of life for all becomes a luxury good for those who can afford it.
Open spaces are consequently erased. Existing tenements are demolished to make way for luxury condos and still more shopping malls. This is made possible because the approach of the government is not oriented toward basic needs and long-term developments, but only toward short-range effects where a unified concept of urban lifestyle is consequently misconstructed as urbanity.
— David Kregenow, Berlin, Germany
This is a selection of photographs from my ongoing series, Life in the Midwest.
It’s interesting to note that although it’s called Life in the Midwest, there is an obvious absence of humankind in these images. That’s because the “life” I am referring to is not humanity, but rather my observations made as I absorb my surroundings.
The locations recorded are important to me as a personal history of where I live, the roads I travel, and the memories I draw from my experiences. Familiarity is a common theme in my life, however unfamiliarity is the catalyst that leads to unexpected images.
The camera is my tool by which I reinterpret these newly found landscapes. It helps me see things more as I imagined them rather than as they actually appear. I recall the ambient sights, sounds, and temperature of each setting and work hard to translate my senses into visual memories.
Life in the Midwest is an ongoing exploration that helps define who I am.
— Larry Torno, University City, Missouri, USA
For this project, Ohio in Rapture, I instinctually roamed from scene to scene across Ohio. I slowly became aware of the force that was pushing me forward. As my collection of photos grew, I found that what was stirring in me were memories of my father. He was a workaholic that ran the family blue-collar business until he passed unexpectedly in 2001, just before I turned 25. Perhaps more significantly, he passed before life could show me his imperfections and take him off the pedestal so many parents start on.
Perhaps because most of these memories are from a child’s perspective, the most lucid are those raised by the familiar topography of Ohio. I often found sacred memories unlocked by the light and form of the landscape.
The smell of my dad’s car in the early-morning drive to his shop was an unmistakable combination of machine grease and sweat. The interior was a disheveled mix of 80-plus-hour work weeks and a losing battle to keep the cloth interior clean. The rising sun revealed a mixed landscape passing by as we sped along nearly empty roads.
Rural decay; family businesses made of hope; working and upper class neighborhoods ebb and flowed between strip malls and forgotten things. Shuttered factories leveled and paved over to serve as parking for new factories. Family farms cut into a silty clay soil that never forgets a bootprint. The smell of industry always nearby, belching and seeping into a gradient of nature’s last thresholds where unseen songbirds celebrate their morning peals.
The rust has changed and shifted over the years, but the light holds true.
Ohio is a land where every collar has an unabashed tinge of blue, without grand gesture or proclamation. As I hold these scenes, so too I hold my father.
— Kier Selinsky, Medina, Ohio, USA
Visions of Collapsing Memories is an exploration of a mountain and its time. I felt it necessary to document not the causes of the depopulation of the mountain but its less obvious consequences in the short term.
Starting from the houses that collapse as metaphors of memories that slowly fade over time, I began to photograph the ruins scattered in the mountain landscape, small ramparts that still resist, as if the effort spent in building them was a glue against the relentless time.
At the same time as I was wandering in the mountains, in an old uninhabited house like the ones I was photographing, negatives on glass sheets dating back to the early 1900s were found, almost as if destiny wanted to bring together the modern and the ancient: and so within my research, a brief dialogue was born with an unknown ancient photographer, in which some photographs were reflected exactly: close in space, far in time.
I have always loved to walk and look for time in things; to allow my state of mind to dialogue with light and space, to give voice to those things that no longer have a voice because no one listens to them.
— Federico Aimar, Castellamonte, Italy
Allentown is a Dispatch from America.
The America that I intimately photograph seems different, unfamiliar, fractured. People seem anxious, divided, disinterested and, at times, unhinged. Something has changed. I’m curious. What’s going on? Consider this a non-scientific inquiry into a people.
Allentown, Pennsylvania is the 231st-largest city in the United States, the third-largest city in Pennsylvania and has received the All-America City Award from the National Civic League on three occasions. And Allentown’s former mayor has been found guilty of 47 Federal corruption charges for his role in a pay-to-play scheme.
— Theo Anderson, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
Flawed was born on the side of the road — a middle-aged road. It surveys the landscape, both physical and psychological, natural and man-made, large and small.
The road trips pictured here are an escape, a journey, a metaphor for life, a time for introspection. Speeding by some features, stopping to take a closer look at others. It considers and evaluates what it deems worthwhile and what was a mistake. (I obsess over my own shortcomings). Ultimately it concludes that the imperfections and flaws are where growth, strength, and beauty lay.
The flaws in these prints — characteristics of old film, old cameras, and the darkroom process (dusty negatives, light leaks, chemical stains, etc.) are spotted in gold. This act is inspired by the art of kintsugi in which broken ceramics are repaired with gold. Kintsugi philosophy recognizes brokenness as an opportunity for restoration, strength and beauty.
— Valerie Yaklin-Brown, Magnolia, Texas, USA
The Pennsylvania Railroad was one of the most storied institutions in American history, operating the largest railroad in the US for over a century. The PRR, as it was known, developed infrastructure, engineering standards and traffic systems that still carry trains today on a system that evolved continually through its long history.
Following its 1968 collapse, the physical face of the PRR network has changed considerably. This once unified system has been carved by various successors into separate if interdependent, corridors for freight and passenger operations across the Mid Atlantic. Though gone nearly half a century, its remains provide visual clues of how the “Standard Railroad of the World” operated, and its contributions to the American way of life.
Inspired by the work of William H. Rau, commissioned in the 1890’s to document and promote the Pennsylvania Railroad and its destinations, the From the Main Line project is a contemporary exploration of the landscape the PRR shaped. It examines both the inhabited landscape developed along the railroad while celebrating the engineering marvel of the Road itself, first undertaken over 150 years ago.
Photographs provide two distinct views by contextualizing the railroad within the landscape while also simulating the experience of the passenger, as if from a railcar window. The story of how the PRR shaped the development of the United States is told by illustrating its transitioning landscape, uncovering its hidden layers of growth, by following the decline and rebirth of small towns, industrial areas and city terminals whose fortunes once depended solely on those of this singular, once-mighty transportation system.
— Michael Froio, Williamstown, New Jersey, USA
The beauty of the plains is not just in themselves but in the sky, in what you think when you look at them, and in what they are not.
— Ian Frazier, Great Plains
These pictures represent trips made between 2006 and 2016 to Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. I went because I wanted to see the westward migration routes: the Oregon and Mormon Trails and the three great rivers—the Missouri, Platte and Yellowstone. The big rivers made me want to look at some smaller ones, so I stopped at, among others, the Heart, the Bad, the Musselshell, the Tongue, the Dismal and the Little Bighorn.
It wasn’t all history and lyrical names, which is good, because ideas or words rarely photograph well. I spent time and attention on interstate highways, which most travelers think of as roads but which seem to me more like places. And of course there were towns and cities and suburbs to photograph. Looking at almost any landscape is a good way to look at the people who live there.
Light on the Great Plains is something special. When we look for beauty or meaning, the easiest mistake we can make is to drive right past it. I’m a believer in the uncommon promise of the commonplace.
— Peter Latner, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
The series Landmarks, produced between 2012 and 2018, shows the entanglement of nature, land, labour, industry and technology in Tasmania (Australia), as it is characterised by big hydro-electric power stations, dams, water reservoirs, penstocks, power pylons and lines, mining operations (tin, iron), etc. In this work I also focus on the remnants and ruins of the original infrastructure put in place to facilitate the work on dams and mines, including now abandoned or dismantled construction camps and villages, where, however, we can now witness the emergence of natural growth. I am especially interested in the way industry and infrastructure, roads and waterways, were built into the land and shaped it to create the unique historical and inhabited human landscape of Tasmania. As such, my work explores photographic possibilities outside the stale opposition between wilderness photography (Ansel Adams or Peter Dombrovskis) and New Topographic photography (the Bechers or Wenders).
— Ilona Schneider, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia