In 1830 the British actress Fanny Kemble described the sensation of riding in a train as "strange beyond description." This revolutionary new mode of transportation came into being at almost exactly the same time as an equally revolutionary new invention: photography. The two would radically change our perception of time, space, and our place in the world, leading to a new way of seeing that Anne M. Lyden, in this thoroughly engaging account, calls "railroad vision." In Lyden's words: "It is difficult for one to fully grasp how revolutionary these two nineteenth-century innovations were, yet their mutually beneficial relationship has shaped our experience of the modern world."
With more than one hundred photographs, many from the collection of the Getty Museum, Railroad Vision illustrates the parallel histories of railroads and photographyfrom a photograph of George Stephenson's steam engine Locomotion, to powerful images from the American Civil War, to a mid-twentieth-century photograph by O. Winston Link of a train roaring by a drive-in movie theater. Images by Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, William Eggleston, and others capture the fascination inspired by railroads and the experience of travel by rail. Whether commissioned by railroad companies or made as independent works of art, these photographs testify to the enduring connection between two technologies that forever changed our perception of the world. Railroad Vision includes new information on many trains and locomotives that will be of particular interest to railroad enthusiasts.
Anne M. Lyden is assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum.