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December 27, 2012

Purdue Galleries exhibits railroading photographs

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O. Winston Link, Hot Shot Eastbound, Iaeger, West Virginia, 1956, photograph, © W. Conway Link
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue Galleries on Jan. 7 will open a new and historically intriguing exhibit featuring evocative photographs of the passing of the steam railroading era. 

"Trains that Passed in the Night: The Railroad Photographs of O. Winston Link" will be presented from Jan. 7 through Feb. 17 in the Robert L. Ringel Gallery in Stewart Center

O. Winston Link's haunting black-and-white photographs from the 1950s depict the end of the era of steam railroading in the United States and the rural landscapes of Virginia and North Carolina that these last trains passed through. Link's evocative nocturnal images are at once highly staged technical feats, nostalgic representations of a disappearing way of life and beautifully strange works of art produced during the era of film noir. The exhibit is organized by Thomas H. Garver and produced in collaboration with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Link was a commercial photographer in New York City specializing in industrial subjects. His efforts to document the last years of steam operations were complex and expensive because he created many of his photographs at night, using a huge array of flashbulbs to better control the lighting and ambiance. A civil engineer by training but always a photographer by profession, he constructed elaborate arrangements to synchronize dozens of lights to "freeze" trains traveling at up to 60 miles per hour. 

The result is a series of beautiful and nostalgic and somewhat haunting images.

"These photographs will take a lot of people by surprise, Purdue Galleries director Craig Martin says. "The era and settings depicted may seem reminiscent of Mayberry to some, and there's a great deal of charm and identification in them. But they are staged with crisp and layered levels of composition, with raking light reveals, and they are absolutely captivating. It's intriguing to imagine these great smoking locomotives passing through rural environments that are not so far removed from what we still see in Indiana today."

Galleries will host a lecture by Thomas Garver in Stewart Center, Room 218 at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10. Garver worked with Link as an assistant in the 1950s. The lecture will be immediately followed by an opening reception for the exhibition in the Ringel Gallery in Stewart Center.

The Robert L. Ringel Gallery in Stewart Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. All Purdue Galleries exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.

For class and group visits, contact Craig Martin at Purdue Galleries at 765-494-3061.

Contact: Craig Martin, 765-494-3061, cdmartin@purdue.edu