Monday, 12 October 2009
Along the Right-of-Way
In the September 1950 issue of Fortune magazine, Walker Evans published a portfolio of seven photographs (of which 4 were in colour) taken through the window of a moving train, under the title, Along the Right-of-Way. It’s a classic example of the extent to which Evans was permitted to explore his personal projects in the pages of America’s foremost business magazine. To view the Evans photo-essay, please follow this link to the Visual Telling of Stories. Evans was fascinated by the uncomposed and arbitrary images that resulted. The railroad tracks carved a channel through a largely unseen and unrecorded American vernacular. The mixture of banality and squalor was inspirational to Evans.
These photos were taken last week from a TGV en-route from Milan to Paris and form a modest tribute to Evans. The train emerges from the Tunnel de Fréjus in the French town of Modane and passes through some sublime Alpine scenery glimpsed through a rich variety of line-side clutter. The foreground is littered with signal gantries, overhead cable supports, footbridges and security fencing that passes for the most part in a motion blur. The middle ground consists of freight sidings, small factories, scrap-yards, cement works, car parks, auto-routes and re-cycling facilities all framed by the geologic splendour of the mountainous backdrop. Another layer of interest is supplied by the reflected light from within the train superimposed on the landscape view. The resulting images gain their narrative power from the random and artless quality of composition.