My work deviates from the common idea that photography records “a split second in time” and “how the scene looks in real life” I feel that such an idea limits the potential of creativity, and I have rooted my technique in long exposures with the use of artificial lighting. Using long exposures allows me to capture motion over several seconds, and sometimes, entire minutes. Over an extended period of time, the body in motion transforms into a concept that conveys speed and creates new shapes and textures that are not visible within a split second. The lighting is used to create looming shadows to create scale and convey life around gigantic machines. I use these shapes to build abstractions that create barriers, show the relationship between the community of man and machine, and illustrate a sense of voyage.
Much of my work has its roots in railroading –especially in Central Pennsylvania. The region has a profound culture of railroading, as many towns owe their existence to the railroads that were built in the 19th century. While airplanes, cars, and trucks have certainly changed transportation within the last century, I create images that show the relevance of railroads and the continued curiosity in the iron horse instilled in communities along the route.
The execution of my photographs is very meticulous. Since I have no control over the train –it’s speed, position, and especially its schedule— it’s up to me to position myself to make the shot and make the best use of my artificial lighting. Since freight railroads have no schedule, predicting trains can be extremely difficult, and there are many instances that I’ve waited hours for a train that never came. Furthermore, there is hardly any room for error; there are no re-dos, as I cannot make the train reverse or return later. Taking photographs at night or with neutral density filters is a difficult process. It requires precise manual focus, and looking through the viewfinder is futile because everything is dark. Furthermore, it’s impossible to use the camera’s light meter to calculate the exposure. I must use my intuition to ensure that my photograph has been exposed properly. I find taking photographs to be physically daunting as well, as I have sprinted up and down mountains and will occasionally go days without sleeping while on an excursion. Additionally, I recall struggling to hold my tripod steady while standing in the back vestibule (with permission) of a high speed Amtrak train. With the entire car shaking vigorously, I had to apply constant pressure to keep my camera in sync with the rails. One small jolt of the tripod will ruin the sharpness of the image, and taking these images takes extreme precision and steadiness.
The quest for images has taken me on a variety of adventurous excursions. I have stood in the pouring rain, freezing temperatures, and in scorching heat taking photographs. My passion for taking photographs has taken me to a myriad of different environments from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia to the hustling streets of Chicago in all hours of the day. Hopefully, through these images, the viewer will have a new awareness of the impact of the train in America as I attempt to show more than what is apparent.