This image, The Passage Home, was awarded the top prize in The Center for Fine Art Photography’s juried competition entitled “Night”. Being one of my current favorite images, I have entered it into 5 other photographic competitions and it has been honored in 4 out of the 5. I’ll get to the exception later.
For me, entering my images in various photographic competitions is a way of getting feedback on where I stand with my vision. I don’t put all my faith in competitions as they’re juried by people, each with their own particular biases, but being recognized still helps reinforce what I’m doing.
In an earlier post, I mentioned how the Center for Railroad Photography and Art (CRPA) themed competition of “Creative Images” railroad photography caused me to look at other photographic genres for not only inspiration, but to learn what is considered a creative and good image. My goal has been to compare my work against the best of all photography, not just railroad photography. For me, this is a way to be challenged and grow as an artist.
One of my photographic projects has been to look at my weekday ritual of commuting by rail. This image, The Passage Home, came out of that project and is a result of some previously tried experiments of slightly blurring the people to reflect the hast of commuting but also to represent the anonymously of the group. I visualized the image when I set up my tripod at the entrance to the underground passageway portal, but the brief burst of animation that happens when a train pulls into the station and discharges its passengers is always unpredictable. I watch how the scene unfolds and try to time my shots for interesting motion or people relationships. After the last commuter walked away and the train was gone, I reviewed my images and this one stood out.
Formally, I like the visual balance of the lit passageway with the light of the stopped train. The composition and inclusion of the train, station, and commuter tells a story without a caption needed. The light is nicely balanced with just enough ambient light at the station to set the scene, with strong light coming from the passenger car windows and even stronger light at the passageway portal. The figure in the passageway seals this image as she has just enough blur to show motion, but not too much that you can’t but help but envision a personality with her gait and bag. It’s easy to read multiple stories into the image and thus most people can find a personal connection to it.
As stated earlier, this image has been received accolades within the general photographic community, but less so as a railroad photograph. I entered it into the past year’s CRPA Awards competition and it was not selected. Does that mean that it’s not a good railroad photograph? Or maybe the bias of the judges just did not see it as a good photograph or possibly it did need meet their criteria on a selection? I don’t know and it probably shouldn’t matter as I like this image very much, and in the end I have to satisfy myself and my own personal goals.
So, is The Passage Home a railroad photograph? Please let me know your thoughts.
As an aside, there are two other “railroad photographers” whose work has been accepted into the above mentioned Center for Fine Art Photography juried competition and exhibition. Lewis Ableidinger and John Singleton are both good photographers whose work I have admired and glad to see that they are like me in pursuing a broader audience for their work beyond the railfan community.