Trains at Night

In 1996, I climbed down into an abandoned army bunker with a cheap electronic flash and illuminated every corner of the interior while the camera sat on a tripod. The result was a print exposing a dark space hidden deep underground as if lit by daylight. I worked to expose more hidden spaces: tunnels, closed hospitals, and abandoned factories. I found myself wandering the city at night collecting architectural images, mixing flashes with ambient light. Finally, I wandered into concerts and parties and spent several years documenting nightlife: a camera in one hand, a flash in the other. It was rewarding to collect images in these unevenly lit places full of movement.

The trains at night project is a combination of my interest in photographing the industrial, built environment and capturing movement at night. The experience of a train passing at night is captivating, with most of the landscape dark, my senses focus on the enormous river of iron rolling though the scene. Using flashes to selectively light elements within a scene allows me to capture and share this dramatic experience.

Railroads are not particularly remote nor are they rare - they pass through most sizable towns in America. However, they have been pushed from the center of life. I live in Troy, New York, a town which once had three railroads meet in the middle of a congested downtown. Today, Troy is served by a small industrial track on the outskirts of town. Many have never explored their town's industrial areas in daylight, let alone after dark. Using the photographs of those who live with trains (railroad crews, hobos, and benchers) as inspiration, I seek to share this landscape.

flash photography process: illuminating trains at night