Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Tracking down the trains

Valle's book is still available if you search round the net.

At last, a fascinating overview of Jack Delano's railroad photography.  His work on this subject has certainly been neglected.  Some photos were in Don Ball's The decade of trains: the 1940s published in 1977 and the same year saw James Valle's The iron horse at war with 272 wonderful mono photos unfortunately presented in a very bland looking book (incidentally it can still be picked up quite cheaply if you look around the net).

This new title is in four portfolios: FSA photos 1940-1942; OWI Chicago; OWI across the country with Santa Fe; FSA/OWI railroads in color 1940-1943 (this portfolio has thirty-three shot).  The nature of Delano's work lifts way above the usual railroad book full of track side shots of heavy freights pulled by multiple diesels, the photos here are in a way the opposite of that because they mostly show workers doing their jobs to keep the (rather rundown) industry going as the country moved into the war years.  I thought the photo selection particularly inspiring because mixed in with the medium and long shots of engines being repaired and serviced or out on the track there are close-up portraits of the workers and the color section nicely has five shots of female railroaders

The back pages have an interesting nine pages devoted to Roy Stryker's railroad shooting scripts followed Notes over four pages (well worth reading, too) then a Bibliography and Index.  The book is well produced in its landscape format, all the photos are captioned including their Library of Congress number.  

Jack Delano's railroad photography comes alive in these pages.

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