AN M.F.A. IN FERROEQUINOLOGY. Lake Forest College hosted a conference on the practice and purpose of railroad photography. The college, which holds several significant collections of railroad-related material, including the Arthur D. Dubin passenger car archive and the Samuel Insull papers, had the assistance of longtime railroad photographer John Gruber and the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, which maintain a useful compendium of railroad heritage sources. Several experienced ferroequinologists offered their perspectives. David Plowden, who began work in the east and now lives on the North Shore, told of a class he taught in which he instructed students to lock their cameras in their cars. Part of succesful photography at that level is earning the trust of the possible subjects, whether they be railroaders or any other person. Victor Hand and Don Phillips told stories of the evolution of their friendship and their differing styles in railroad photography. Both of these men worked as transportation professionals. One wonders, once again, why being a train enthusiast can be a deal-killer in a job interview with a railroad. What talent might the industry have lost.
The somewhat provocative title of my post refers to a presentation by Scott Lothes, an up-and-coming ferroequinologist who suggested that photographers obtain insight about their subject by reading fiction and critical essays. He has compiled a bibliography of literary works with railroad connections, many of which influenced his thinking about his art.