#425 – Library of Congress Images – the night photography of Jack Delano

Illinois Central R.R., Chicago, Ill. Vernon Brower, riding the foot board of a diesel switch engine at the South Water Street freight terminal

I’ve featured quite a few of Jack Delano’s Library of Congress photographs on this blog over the last 18 months or so. Maybe it’s because he photographed subjects that I am interested in, but his photographs stand out for some reason. While some of the portraits of the railway workers on the Santa Fe and Chicago and North Western Railroad are clearly posed (the best candid photographs are always posed, a wedding photographer once told me), others are less obviously so and were probably done as a collaboration with the subjects who were carrying out their daily tasks. But they do have too much of a sense of occasion about them to be candids.

Santa Fe R.R. yards, Argentine, Kansas. Argentine yard is at Kansas City, Kansas

Chicago and North Western R.R., Mrs. Thelma Cuvage, working in the sand house at the roundhouse, Clinton, Iowa

This second selection (below) caught my eye though. Most railway photography is about the hardware – the locomotives, trains, the infrastructure and their place within the urban and rural landscapes where they are found. And of course, you will sometimes (occasionally) get some featuring people. This selection is not about any of these subjects. These are more abstract and are in my eyes about light and movement, They are created as a consequence of trains and people, but are not about trains and people. Or maybe I’m reading too much into them and he was simply killing time experimenting at the end of a shift or waiting for something to happen?

Interestingly, after the war Jack Delano moved into cinema, a route not uncommon for photographers including John Bulmer, a British Photographer who I will also be writing about at some point in the next 12 months.

Activity in the Santa Fe R.R. yard, Los Angeles, Calif. All switch lights, head lights and lamps have been shaded from above in accordance with blackout regulations. The heavy light streaks are caused by paths of locomotive headlights and the thin lines by lamps of switchmen working in the yard. Santa Fe R.R. trip

Illinois Central R.R., freight cars in South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill

View in a departure yard at C & NW RR's Proviso yard at twilight, Chicago, Ill.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. These are fascinating, Andy. I have long been a fan of Jack Delano and his superb photography, but these night shots are a first for me. The shots with the shunter and the guy loading the sand furnace are so evocative. I also appreciated seeing the neon lights above the freight terminal lit up for a change…it seems to be taken at the same location as his daylight views. Great post!


    1. andy says:

      Thanks Iain! There are a few books of Jack Delano’s photographs out including this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0253017777/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3UDSDYVJS9O8U&coliid=I3EC7V0UPN799 which came out this year and this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0615951562/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3UDSDYVJS9O8U&coliid=IUZTJM8BR3D1F. I’m mightily tempted, although my sagging bookshelves would probably object to additional overloading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a wonderful and fascinating world of railway-lights. Thank you, Andy

    Liked by 1 person

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