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Wednesday
May082013

The Rhythm of the Rails: Jack Delano’s iconic 1940s images of trains, railyards and workers

Written by , Shared via Imaging Resource

Jack Delano's gorgeous color images from the 1940s remind us of the day when railroads dominated the American landscape -- and the American consciousness. The gigantic locomotives, the play of light on steel rails and the huge roundhouses were all elements that spurred the imagination and presented a subject of infinite possibilities for a photographer. The railroads had bound the country together and opened the West. Chicago was the hub, especially the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard.

Working for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, he traveled across America photographing the effects of the Depression on American life. At the time, the railroads meant freedom and they seduced thousands of unemployed men -- and some women -- to ride the rails. They hitched rides on freight trains and hid in empty cars or slept on top of them, always on the alert for the railroad cops. In the depths of the Depression, their primary goal was to get "somewhere else" and find a job.

Mike Evans, a welder, at the rip tracks at Proviso yard of the Chicago and Northwest Railway Company. Chicago, Illinois, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Delano was originally one of those job seekers himself when he proposed a photographic project to document the mining operations and working conditions of the Schuylkill County,Pennsylvania-area, coal mines. He sent samples of his photographs and applied for a job at the FSA's Photography program, which was headed by the charismatic Roy Stryker and was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 New Deal -- a program aimed at creating jobs for some of America's millions of unemployed.
A welder who works in the round-house at the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard. Chicago, Illinois, December 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
 At the recommendation of the photographer Marion Post Wolcott, Stryker hired the young Delano on the condition that he had his own car and a driver's license. At a salary of $2,300 a year, Delano -- along with Wolcott, Russell Lee, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange and others -- helped produce what is probably the greatest photographic record of American life ever made.
Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, Chicago and Northwest Railway Company. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Surprisingly a large number of these images were shot in color with the newly available Kodachrome transparency film. Delano was one of the FSA photographers who shot a good deal of his work in color, both as Kodachrome 35mm slides and medium format transparencies. In 2006, the Library of Congress produced an exhibition, Bound For Glory, which for the first time featured a collection of these color photographs taken by the FSA photographers.
Mrs. Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the roundhouse giving a giant "H" class locomotive a bath of live steam. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 
The benefits of classical training

Born Jacob Ovcharov in 1914 in the small Russian village of Voroshilovka, Delano came to America in 1923 with his parents and younger brother. By the age of 9 his creative talents were already evident, and he attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia where he studied graphic arts, photography and the viola. After that he continued his studies of illustration and music at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts until 1932.

Switchman throwing a switch at Chicago and Northwest Railway Company's Proviso yard. Chicago, Illinois, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
In these Chicago Northwestern Railroad photographs, I think you can feel Delano's musical training. Like his contemporary -- the similarly classically trained Ansel Adams -- there is the same sense of power and grandeur. They share the romanticism of the New World, where Nature and Technology have replaced the old gods. In Delano's photographs the trains and the railyards dwarf people, in much the same way as the landscape does in Adams' photographs.
View in a departure yard at Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard at twilight. Chicago, Illinois, December 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
More than just a photographer

In 1941, Stryker sent Delano to photograph rural poverty in Puerto Rico. He fell in love with the island and, in 1946, he and his wife Irene settled there permanently. Delano began to write music, and for the next 50 years produced full orchestral, chamber and instrumental works, choral pieces and more. (You can see and hear one of his compositions played by the Orquesta Sinfonica del Conservatorio de Puerto Rico below.)

In Puerto Rico, Delano began to make movies of island life and, in 1953, directed and wrote the score for a film called Los Peloteros about poor rural kids and their love for baseball. The film became a classic in Puerto Rican cinema.

Like so many photographers of his time, Delano was a multi-faceted talent. And although he died in 1997, he left us the legacy of his superb photographs and his music compositions.

Chicago Union Station, 1943. Photo by Jack Delano.
To view the article in its original form, click here.
 

WHO ARE WE?

We're the New York Institute of Photographya distance education school teaching photography since 1910 - over 100 years of knowledge and experience.

 Click here to watch the New York Institute of Photography video.

 

Monday
May062013

Favorite 3 Photographs: GDT Nature Photographer of the Year Award Announced

Ever since 2002, the Society of German Nature Photographers or Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotografen (GDT) has held an annual contest in which it awards the author of the photograph it deems to be the best of those submitted the Nature Photographer of the Year honor. According to the rules of the conest, contestants must be full members or sponsored members of the GDT. This year the award was give to Herman Hirsch for his image of an alert fox in tall grass titled "Abendidylle," which is pictured below. In addition to the contest's overall winner, I have included two other GDT award-winning photographs which I found to be particularly moving. Enjoy.

GDT studio category winner: 'Bubbling' by Sigi Zang GDT prize of the jury category winner: 'Returning from the hunt' by Michael Lohmann

To see all the winners from this year's contest, go to the GDT gallery by clicking here.

 

WHO ARE WE?

We're the New York Institute of Photographya distance education school teaching photography since 1910 - over 100 years of knowledge and experience.

 Click here to watch the New York Institute of Photography video.

 

Friday
May032013

Video Pick: How a Pro Photographer and an Instagram Star Express Themselves Through Photography

We just came across this wonderful documentary by filmmaker Andy Newman called Portrait, and it focuses on two Seattle professionals who embrace photography and creativity as a huge part of their lives. At the New York Institute of Photography, we're continually hearing from our students that they take our courses because they have always had a deep passion for photography and they'd like to learn how to improve their photo-taking skills.
 
 
This short doc perfectly underscores our students' passion for expressing themselves creatively through photography. It's an activity that will grab you and never let go for the rest of your life, and it will become a way to connect every facet of who you are into one continuously flowing form of creative expression. If you're currently an NYIP student, we think you'll love this video as it reinforces your chosen path. And to those of you who might be exploring photography education, watch this video and see if you identify with either of these individuals; they follow different career paths, but photography becomes their unique intersection point. If you think photography might be your path, I encourage you to explore NYIP's courses. We've helped thousands of people - more than any other photography school on the planet - pursue their dreams.
 

 

WHO ARE WE?

We're the New York Institute of Photographya distance education school teaching photography since 1910 - over 100 years of knowledge and experience.

 Click here to watch the New York Institute of Photography video.


Wednesday
May012013

The Dude Abides on the Other Side of the Lens

Written by James Estrin, Shared via The New York Times Lens Blog

© Jeff Bridges - A self-portrait on the set of "True Grit."

Some photographers are drawn to dramatic events in exotic lands. Others are compelled to stay closer to home and burrow into the stories they know best.

The actor Jeff Bridges gets to do both. He photographs the world he grew up in, movie sets — each one a world never seen before. And he earns a little more than your average photographer while doing it.

Since 1984, Mr. Bridges has documented the sets of most of his movies, compiling a large collection of wide images that give an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at movie making.

“My photography is mainly focused on my work making movies, which I’ve done my whole life,” he said in a phone interview. “I think I have a perspective that not many people have. And I get to take advantage of all of the strange sources of light on a set.”

Though Mr. Bridges is better known for his acting roles — The Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit,” Kevin Flynn in the Tron movies — he will receive special recognition tomorrow at the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Awards dinner in New York.

This is not the first time Mr. Bridges has been honored: he has been nominated for six Academy Awards and received an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Otis Blake in the 2009 film “Crazy Heart.” But he says it is “wonderful to be recognized by people who love photography.”

Mr. Bridges uses a Widelux camera for almost all of his photos because he says its ultrawide images are close to how the human eye really sees. It’s a quirky camera that allows photographers to emphasize both foreground and background. In the introduction to his book “Pictures,” published in 2003, Mr. Bridges wrote about his favorite camera:

The Widelux is a fickle mistress; its viewfinder isn’t accurate, and there’s no manual focus, so it has an arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in all my work — a lack of preciousness that makes things more human and honest, a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment and to let go of the result. Getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.

The Widelux has a lens mounted on a moving turret. As the lens moves, a slit shutter sweeps across a wide plane of film, creating a sometimes blurry cinematic effect. It can take two and a half seconds for a normal exposure (at one-fifteenth of a second). This gives the photographer less control of the result, because when one starts taking a picture, it is hard to know exactly what will happen two seconds in the future on the far side of the frame.

“I look at the camera as sort of a missing link between motion picture photography and still photography,” Mr. Bridges said.

© Jeff Bridges - Top, Maggie Gyllenhaal: “Tragoedia/Comoedia,” on the set of “Crazy Heart.” Bottom, Matt Damon: “Tragoedia/Comoedia,” on the set of “True Grit.”
Photography is different from movie making because it is more of a solitary endeavor, even when one is photographing a lot of people. But in both disciplines, the product doesn’t always turn out as expected.

“You show up, you practice, you have as much technique that you can bring, and then the reality has much to give to the experience,” Mr. Bridges said. “That’s what makes it such a joy to look at the contact sheets. You see what you thought you had and you did, and what you didn’t think you had and you got, and that’s very similar to making movies.”

Mr. Bridges has acted professionally since he was a young child, when he appeared with his father, Lloyd Bridges, star of the television series “Sea Hunt,” on that show. While attending high school in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, he built a home darkroom in a bathroom and fell in love with black-and-white printing. As his acting career took off, he left photography behind — until he appeared in the 1976 remake of “King Kong,” in which he played an paleontologist who always carried a camera. That rekindled his interest, and after his wife bought him a Widelux, he brought it to the set of “Starman” in 1984.

His co-star Karen Allen suggested they make a book of photos for the cast, and for almost every film he has been in since then, Mr. Bridges has made a special, limited-edition book for the cast and crew.

His purchasable collection, “Pictures,” was published by PowerHouse Books, and he donates the proceeds — including from sales of individual prints — to the Motion Picture and Television Fund and several organizations that fight hunger in the United States.

At times, his photographs form a visually refined family album that includes his father; his brother, the actor Beau Bridges; and his fellow actors. They provide a behind-the-scenes view of movie making and sometimes resemble early silent slapstick shorts more than they do fine art films.

Mr. Bridges revels in using the Widelux’s long exposure time to take in-camera photos of his acting friends (Slide 12 and above) making comedic and tragic faces. During a single exposure, they run from one end of the frame to the other and pose goofily for the camera.

He wants to publish a book of his newer images and intends to continue photographing the sets of his movies.

So, Mr. Bridges will abide. You can take comfort in that.

© Jeff Bridges - Sam Elliott and Jeff Bridges: “The Stranger” and “The Dude” on the set of “The Big Lebowski.”
To view the article in its original form, click here.
 
 

WHO ARE WE?

We're the New York Institute of Photographya distance education school teaching photography since 1910 - over 100 years of knowledge and experience.

 Click here to watch the New York Institute of Photography video.

 

 

Monday
Apr292013

NYIP Student Successes

Many NYIP members have won prestigious awards in contests and photo fairs or have had their work exhibited in galleries. Other NYIP members are building careers shooting weddings, press events, corporate and commercial assignments, or have received professional recognition and publication of their photos. Here are some recent NYIP success stories:
 

Barry W. Szymanski, Wisconsin

Congratulations to NYIP Graduate Barry Szymanski on the publication of his photo book "A Congregationalist’s Journey: Photographs of Sacred and Secular England" Barry, who is a lawyer and an ordained minister, photographed contemporary and ancient sites in England for his book. Learn more about it on his website - www.photosbybarrywszymanski.com.

 

Michael R. Cox, North Carolina

After  Michael graduated from the NYIP Complete Course in Professional Photography, he was offered a job in teaching 11th grade students photography at a local private school in Charlotte, NC. Michael says he "really enjoys seeing the students improve their skills and experiences in photography. I have planned to take my class to our newspaper company so they can see how photojournalism works and how photos are processed for printing."

 

Kraig Hooke, Arizona

Congratulations also goes to Kraig Hooke who had photos chosen twice as Photo of the Day on the website Capture My Arizona.

 

Camelia Saltos, New Jersey

Camelia's ethereal photograph "Water Reflection" was presented at the SOHO Gallery for Digital Art in NYC from March 19 to March 22 as part of the " 1197 PEOPLE'S CHOICE TOP 50" Contest for Mobile Photography Awards!

 

Joe Motohashi, Japan

Kudos to Joe Motohashi whose photograph of a horse was published in the February 2013 issue of Ladies Home Journal and also appeared on their website. You can see more of Joe's work here.

 

Rafique Washake, New York

Rafique has been very busy with his photography career. He's a photographer for a company called Endocrine Technology. The New York Daily News featured his images of a car accident on the newspaper's website - photographs he took after using his NYIP PhotoWorld Press Pass.  one of Rafique's photographs was used in a calendar for a company in Bangladesh. And, since Rafique's often asked to take photographs for birthdays, anniversaries, sweet sixteen, seasonal and housewarming parties, he's planning on opening his own photo business later this year. Way to go Rafique!

 

Janice Mezzacappa, New Jersey

Janice Mezzacappa recently won Second Place in the Elements of Design contest run by BetterPhoto. Janice's winning photo, Building Staircase, was one of over 10,000 images selected for the contest. Janice, who graduated from our Complete Course in Professional Photography says "My goals and dreams are coming true and I wanted to thank you wholeheartedly for all your hard work and mine too! I couldn't have done it without the wonderful resources and program I finished from NYIP!!!"

 

Stefan Neagu, Romania

Congratulations to Stefan Neagu who just had his first solo exhibition featuring his interpretation of various art sites in the town of Onesti, Romania.  Stefan used multiple exposures,collage and zoom-out techniques in his photographs of sculptures, monuments and mosaics made between 1960-1970, and which have been forgotten and left into oblivion. Stefan says his project was a success and soon all those sites will be reconditioned. Check out this exhibit online and on Stefan's blog.

 
 

Do you have an NYIP Success Story to tell? Email us at editors@nyip.com and let us know! 

 

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