Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Photographic Vision - Or, Why Some Photographs Are Better Than Others (Railroad Images)

Santa - Barstow, California
"Nice series. Much cooler than normal trackside photos." --Paul Jarvie
Paul was talking about the photographs you see here. It was a nice compliment. But it got me thinking about why these photographs are better than typical railroad photographs. What is it about them that makes them much cooler than normal trackside photos?

The first thing that you should know is that these photographs are cross-processed film. I used an old Russian rangefinder and Fuji Velvia film to capture them. Then I had a photo lab purposefully develop the film wrong. No digital effects here.
Red Caboose - Boron, California
Is it film that makes these photographs look more interesting? Is it because I used an old rangefinder camera? Because I cross processed the film? All of those things contributed to the "look" of the photographs, but I could have digitally made similar images with my cell phone and an app like Instagram. So I don't think that's the answer.

So what is it about these images that make them more interesting? What is the "cool" factor that Paul mentions? What makes these photographs stand out from the crowd of other railroad photographs.
Arizona - Barstow, California
The answer is photographic vision. These images came from my mind first before they came from the camera. I previsualized the photographs you see here before I ever exposed the film.

I knew that I was going to cross process the film, so I looked for opportunities to take advantage of that.  I looked bright colors that would stand out in an image.
Flare & Flag - Barstow, California
I also wanted to get closer. I didn't want to show the big picture, I wanted to show more of the details. I wanted all of the photographs together to show the big picture. Individually the photographs are snippets of the whole story.

The extra contrast that the cross processing provided made for bold images. This works together with everything else to create abstract images. It isn't entirely clear what each photograph is, other than they are of railroads. 
Barstow - Barstow, California
All of that plays into the theme: railroad relics that were found in an outing in southern California. These relics have character. But it is clear that these are things of the past that seemingly don't belong in the modern industry. And whether or not they are still a part of the modern industry is not completely clear.

I purposefully made these photographs with that in mind. That is what photographic vision is. And that vision is what makes these images much cooler than normal trackside photos. 

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