NORFOLK AND WESTERN RAILWAYS

O. Winston Link

NORFOLK AND WESTERN RAILWAYS

Winston Link’s most widely recognized work was based on his passion for steam locomotives; initially an engineer, he later became a public relations and advertising photographer.

Between 1955 and 1959 he created an unusual body of images, taking nocturnal photographs of one of the last great steam locomotive railways in the United States, the Norfolk and Western Railway, before its replacement by diesel locomotives.
Although he was working professionally for business companies, this project was a personal labour of love, requiring extraordinary technical expertise, especially for the complex lighting. Link wanted to capture the landscape crossed by the locomotives: family life, the drive-in, eating out of doors and he used flash systems to light each scene as if it were a movie shot. Naturally, since he did not know the exact moment the locomotive would be frozen on film, he sometimes took 2,400 large format shots using up to 40 different lighting sources, developing new techniques for the experiment.

In explaining his choice to shoot photos at night, he said: «I can’t move the sun – and it’s always in the wrong place – and I can’t even move the tracks, so I
had to create my own environment through lighting».

He travelled to the state of Virginia 20 times in 5 years to achieve this project, which has become a point of reference in the history of photography, as much for its originality as for the technical quality of the images.

Encouraged and facilitated by the railway company, his work was completed with some shots of the Roanoke repairs workshops and daylight photos of rural railway lines.

Winston Link’s life ended tragically; his ex-wife attempted to steal many of his works and he lost much of his enthusiasm for photography.

This exhibition reinstates Link in his rightful place thanks to his friend and gallerist Robert Mann who has lent Foto/Industria a magnificent collection of vintage photos.

François Hébel
Winston Link is represented by Gallery Robert Mann, New York

01 – O. Winston Link – Maud si inchina al Virginia Creeper, Green Cove, Virginia, 1956 – © The Estate of O. Winston Link, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery
02 – O. Winston Link – La locomotiva Hot Shot in direzione est, laeger, West Virginia, 1956 – © The Estate of O. Winston Link, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

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