Shawn Michelle Smith
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When the Train Rolls In
The train and photography were intersecting technologies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Working with a collection of small black and white photographs from the 1930s that I found in my grandparents' photo albums, I have tried to capture the motion and excitement surrounding the arrival of the train, as well as the sculptural beauty of the train itself. I am also interested in the performance of masculinity in these images -- in the poses and postures of men, including my grandfather, who traveled by or worked for the train. I hope that the grainy quality of the enlargements draws attention to the medium of photography itself, and that the scratches and imperfections of the details point to the wear and tear of time. The work explores the train and photography as vehicles for transportation and self-transformation that converged to produce an image of a modern, mobile population headed for a future that is now well in the past.