ccp-australia: O. Winston Link and the Norfolk and Western…

Hotshot Eastbound (1956)

Officer Painter Patrols Main Street., Stanley, Virginia. (1956)

Swimming Pool, Welch, West Virginia. (1958)

Link and George Thom with Link’s Flash Equipment, 1956. Link and his assistant with the elaborate and cumbersome lighting rigs, necessary for capturing night scenes.


O. Winston Link and the Norfolk and Western railway project

O. Winston Link was an American photographer who captured the dying days of steam trains in an rapidly developing America. Taken in Virginia from 1956 to 1960, his series documents the last steam trains on the Norfolk and Western railway line, which was fully converted to diesel by 1960. 

Link almost exclusively photographed after sunset, believing that the contrast between the night sky and the stream produced by the trains was more exciting and dramatic than a daytime scene. A pioneer of nighttime photography, he would set up elaborate lighting rigs, developing new and innovative uses of flash bulbs in order to photograph the large scenes. He explained “I can’t move the sun — and it’s always in the wrong place — and I can’t even move the tracks, so I had to create my own environment through lighting.“ 

These dynamic, created environments juxtapose the old fashioned steam engine with images of young people enjoying the conveniences of modern life. The billowing steam is often reminiscent of a fog of nostalgia falling over the scene, forming a veil of former glories. 

Link’s elaborate staging has inspired contemporary photographers such as Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson. 

Nora Merralls, CPP Volunteer