Re: Photo Documentation (was War Emergency Hoppers)

Ben Hom <bhom3@...>

Ted Cullotta wrote:

"Many photographers may have photographed freight cars because of the
shock value to that particular photographer, thereby making the
extremely rare seem commonplace to subsequent would-be historians
examining the photos. I'm sure that there are many instances (and I
don't use this example literally, but rather illustratively) of a
photographer snapping a picture of the one pickle car he's ever seen
rather than the thousands of seemingly mundane hoppers that were
always 'in the way' when he peered through his viewfinder."

I like to think of this as the "Christine Syndrome" - a hundred years
from now, researchers of the Rock Island will conclude that the RI
commuter power pool consisted of Christines and E6s based on the
number of photos in existence!

Seriously, though, this underlines one of the few pitfalls of
photographic documentation - the natural human desire of a
photgrapher to record the unusual rather than the mundane. This
makes all of that work spent with a magnifying glass over yard and
whole train pictures important because it allows the researcher the
ability to see the forest for the trees. My personal favorites are
Jack Delano's color photos for the Office of War Information during
WWII - whole yard photos in color documenting the variety of
equipment at that time and (more importantly for those who DON'T
model the 1940s) are a great reference for accurately weathering
steam-era equipment.

Of course, none of this is meant to discount the vital role of photos
in research.

Ben Hom

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