Exhibition Presents the Work of Acclaimed Photographer O. Winston Link
Winchester, VA 5/26/09... Beginning this Friday and extending through August 2, a collection of remarkable photographs documenting the final years of steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western Railway will go on display in the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV).
Life Along the Line: Railroad Photography by O. Winston Link is a newly organized exhibition from the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Virginia. The 31 images included in the exhibition illustrate how people lived along and interacted with the Norfolk & Western Railway, the last Class 1 railroad in America to operate exclusively with steam power.
Taken between 1955 and 1960, Link’s photographs of the N&W comprise one of the nation’s best records of steam railroading. According to Kimberly Parker, Director of the O. Winston Link Museum, the broad appeal of Link’s photographs comes from their skillful expression of the lives that the steam railroad reflected and supported. In fact, many of the photographs show trains only in the background, seemingly unnoticed as people go about their everyday lives.
Most of the photographs in the MSV exhibition are black and white. Many of the photographer’s most famous images are included in the display and include photographs taken of the N&W at night. Some images in the exhibition are poignant, such as the photograph showing a drive-in theatre. In that photograph, an airplane is visible in the movie on the screen while, to the right of the real-life scene, a locomotive passes by. Other engaging images show children swimming in a creek underneath a bridge carrying the N&W and an image where Link photographed himself as a traveler consulting the train schedule in a passenger station.
The MSV has complemented the exhibition with a special treat: a scale model of a steam locomotive, built by the late George W. Giles of Winchester in the 1970s, will also be on display.
Profile of the Photographer
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1914, O. Winston Link was introduced to photography by his father. As a teenager, he built his own photographic enlarger and went to work for a local photo store. While studying civil engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, he worked as photographer and photo editor of the school’s newspaper. After graduation in 1937, Link became a photographer for a New York City public relations firm. With the onset of World War II, he went to work as a government photographer and researcher at Columbia Institute Laboratory in Mineola, Long Island. The Long Island Railroad, which operated nearby, rekindled Link’s childhood fascination with steam locomotives. He began photographing the railroad and then built the flash equipment required for the large-scale images he shot at night.
After the war, Link became an independent, professional photographer. On a 1955 trip to Staunton, Virginia, Link traveled to nearby Waynesboro to observe the Norfolk & Western Railway. By then it was the last mainline railroad in America to operate exclusively with steam power. Link returned the next night—January 21, 1955—and began photographing the trains. Over the next five years—until its last steam locomotive was taken out of service in 1960—Link made more than twenty trips to the N&W tracks in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. He produced 2,400 images during this time. Link financed the entire project himself, spending about nine months along the railroad lines during this five-year period. For the project, he hauled hundreds of flashbulbs, nearly a mile of wire, specially built reflectors, a custom power supply, and three large cameras in a trailer that he towed behind his 1952 Buick convertible.
In the 1980s Winston Link’s railroad photographs began to receive recognition as works of art. Since their first museum exhibition in 1983, Link’s images have been exhibited throughout the United States, Great Britain, Europe, and Japan. Today his photographs are in many museum, corporate, and private collections. The books, Steam, Steel & Stars, published in 1987, and The Last Steam Railroad in America, published in 1995, sealed Link’s status as America’s premier photographer of steam railroading. In 2000, Link agreed to the creation of the O. Winston Link Museum in the historic Norfolk & Western Passenger Station in Roanoke, Virginia. Link died on January 30, 2001, in New York, and so never witnessed the opening of the museum in 2004.
►Programs in conjunction with the exhibition follow.Special Exhibition Programming
To celebrate Life Along the Line: Railroad Photography by O. Winston Link, the MSV has scheduled a number of special activities in conjunction with the exhibition.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 28, the MSV will present the lecture “O. Winston Link, a Biography” by Kimberly Parker, director of the O. Winston Link Museum. This presentation will cover the life and work of O. Winston Link, with a focus on Link’s Norfolk & Western project. This presentation is free to MSV Members; the fee for all others is $8 for adults or $6 for seniors and includes admission to the MSV galleries. Seating is limited; those interested in attending this lecture are encouraged to arrive early.
Programs for youth have also been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. Let’s Roll with O. Winston Link: Pop Culture of the 1950s is offered to youth ages 12 to 17 from 1 until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. This program will use Link’s photographs as an inspiration to introduce participants to the 1950s. After a presentation about the 1950s that will include video clips, music, and images, attendees will work in small groups to create a skit, dress in period clothing, and present their creation to the group. This program will be offered to youth ages 12 to 17 again from 1 until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, and to youth ages 7 to 11 from 1 until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22. Refreshments will be served in each program. Fees are $8 for MSV Members and $10 for all others. Registration deadlines are the Fridays before each program. To register, call 540-662-1473, ext. 209, or e-mail edassistant@ShenandoahMuseum.org.
Finally, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31, the MSV will open the Life Along the Line exhibition and the other MSV galleries for evening tours and an 8:30 p.m. outdoor showing of the classic 1979 film starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, “The Great Train Robbery.” Presented with Winchester’s Magic Lantern Theater, the fee (includes gallery admission and film) is $5 per person for MSV Members and Magic Lantern Theatre Members; the fee for all others is $10. Wine and light refreshments will be sold, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, including its Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens, is located at 901 Amherst Street in Winchester, Virginia. Open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, the MSV includes eleven gallery rooms, a café, and museum store. Admission is free to MSV Members. For all others, an adult combination ticket to visit the house, gardens, and Museum is $12; senior and youth combination tickets are $10 each. Admission to the Museum galleries only is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and youth. Admission to the MSV galleries is free to all on Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon. For more information call 888-556-5799, ext. 235 (toll free), or visit www.ShenandoahMuseum.org.–END–