Cover image for Railroad vision : photography, travel, and perception
Railroad vision : photography, travel, and perception
Lyden, Anne M., 1972-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Los Angeles : The J. Paul Getty Museum, [2003]

Physical Description:
xv, 164 pages : illustrations (some color), map ; 23 x 29 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR715 .L93 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



In 1830 the British actress Fanny Kemble described the sensation of riding in a train as "strange beyond description." This revolutionary new mode of transportation came into being at almost exactly the same time as an equally revolutionary new invention: photography. The two would radically change our perception of time, space, and our place in the world, leading to a new way of seeing that Anne M. Lyden, in this thoroughly engaging account, calls "railroad vision." In Lyden's words: "It is difficult for one to fully grasp how revolutionary these two nineteenth-century innovations were, yet their mutually beneficial relationship has shaped our experience of the modern world."
With more than one hundred photographs, many from the collection of the Getty Museum, Railroad Vision illustrates the parallel histories of railroads and photography-from a photograph of George Stephenson's steam engine Locomotion, to powerful images from the American Civil War, to a mid-twentieth-century photograph by O. Winston Link of a train roaring by a drive-in movie theater. Images by Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, William Eggleston, and others capture the fascination inspired by railroads and the experience of travel by rail. Whether commissioned by railroad companies or made as independent works of art, these photographs testify to the enduring connection between two technologies that forever changed our perception of the world. Railroad Vision includes new information on many trains and locomotives that will be of particular interest to railroad enthusiasts.

Author Notes

Anne M. Lyden is Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Getty Museum.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This Getty exhibition, organized by Lyden (curator, Getty Museum) in spring 2002, is a good introduction to the history (mostly 19th-century) of the communion of railroads and photography that entered the world in 1825 and 1839, respectively. It presents a quiet, pleasant sampling of well-reproduced full-page plates (100) and text figures (30) by some 45 photographers. Without any substantial new information, Lyden's five summary historical essays are engaging because they focus on an important idea: how the railroads and photography together (photography, supported by the railroads, was used to promote the building and then use of the rail system and of the land), and separately but simultaneously (conquering space, time, distance, and unfamiliarity) changed our perception and experience of the land by transporting us physically and virtually as observers (cultural, political, economic) of a new world. Five sections (four on the 19th century, one on the 20th) track separate themes, the last focusing on photography's new interests: the move to aesthetic issues, and the move to more layered forms of social and critical documentation, eventually exposing the demise (and abandonment) of the railroads (by the force of autos and planes). Notes on text and plates. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. C. Chiarenza emeritus, University of Rochester

Table of Contents

Weston NaefJim Wilke and Annc M. Lyden
Forewordp. xii
Acknowledgmentsp. xiv
Introduction: "Railroad Vision"p. 1
The Dawn of a New Age: Railroads and Photographyp. 7
Bridges, Trestles, and Viaductsp. 37
The Moving Landscapep. 79
Railroad Visionsp. 115
Notesp. 146
Notes to the Platesp. 149
Indexp. 158