16 June 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why.
My small town of Newark, Delaware, USA, has daily Amtrak and freight trains, which are woven into the fabric of the community. A train’s rhythm and syncopation is hard-wired into our experiences. There is hardly a corner within the city limits where you cannot hear rumblings on the tracks. Oh, and I smile at the sound of their whistles as they journey through town.
When my son was a toddler, we frequently walked a few blocks to our local train station, where he was mesmerized by passing or stilled behemoths. I surmise that his enthusiasm secured itself in my psyche.
As an adult my own adoration for this mode of travel has never wavered. Any chance to use the rails adds a surge to my everyday or holiday plans. I’d rather lounge in a train’s furnishings than use any other form of travel.
To be transported by this public system is to conjure America’s economic and social history, the culture of the new frontier, the country’s expanse, the pure joy of watching scenery evolve, the cadence of the wheels, an archetype of ingenuity, and the symbol of wanderlust. Sometimes even euphoria accompanies the destination sought. The rails encourage a sense of wonder–no deviation, tracks behind and ahead.
Sure, romanticism plays a part in the narrative, but I’m not having a love affair. When it’s possible, I transport myself onto the platform with ticket in hand, and board as a passenger to the known and unknown. While all travel has elements of the same, trains add an indescribable luster. Even tired and worn-out ones have their charming perks. Maybe I’m simply infatuated.
Such ambience offers a better chance for eavesdropping, listening and watching other passengers. Often if not reading or enjoying the landscape or schmoozing with a companion, I am a sensible voyeur studying the view inside and out.
Train stations remind me of my fascination with street life. Riding the rails seems an extension of city and rural life. It connects the two; it carries residents and visitors; it marries the road with the land. It is a stupendous human invention that continues a long tradition of reasonably priced transportation that accommodates the mind’s eye and spirit.
I have a dear friend whose entire family took overnight rail from the East Coast to the Northwest. The itinerary took them to major and minor cities, and then they arrived at the end point: a national park. They interspersed a conversational and relaxing time on a sleeper car with camping out in the pristine wilderness: no bears invited. They had an onboard adventure that led to an outdoor one, but it also spurred their bookings of subsequent rail trips. Each having its flavor of the new and the old.
In the Lens section are four images that I took on a recent trip from Sacramento to Berkeley, California, via commuter rail. It was a heavenly two-decker that took us from cityscape to wetlands to cityscape. While it was grey and rainy, the interior was filled with chatty people on the go. But it was the occasional bucolic scenery and tiny towns that cradled my attention. I was like a marshmallow upon arrival at Berkeley Station, and truly ready to visit cherished friends.
Trains have a way of softening my mind; they uncover layers of stress and allow them to dissipate. I don’t mind the slow commuter trains that take us from my hometown to Philadelphia. Once I’ve set foot on ground again, I’m ready for lengthy walks in the city.
The balance is the grey between the black and white. The balance is the combination that inspires a certain kind of seeing: attentiveness to the moving and the stilled.
Tip of the Day: I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning, and came across an article about the French photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). A year before his death he was interviewed by director Heinz Bütler, and the result is the film “The Impassioned Eye” (2003). It records their conversations as well as comments by well-known artists who knew Cartier-Bresson, or were the subject of his masterful photographs. His black and white images are a lesson in twentieth-century art history and art appreciation. He was an icon in the annals of photography. I encourage you to see the entire (72 minutes) or click here for the YouTube introduction (1:14 minutes).
“I find emotion in black and white: it transposes, it is an abstraction, it is not the norm. Reality is like a chaotic deluge and, within this reality, one must make choices that bring form and content together in a balanced way; just imagine having to think about colour on top of all this!” Henri Cartier-Bresson, interview with Le Monde, September 1974.
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Photo Challenge, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges: 1st Monday: Nature 2nd Monday: Macro 3rd Monday: Black and White 4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel). 5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week