Capturing the disappearing aspects of American life is photographer David Plowden’s stock in trade. He proudly relates that his first published photograph appeared in TRAINS magazine a year before he graduated from Yale with an economics degree.
After photographing locomotives and other aspects of railroading in the early 1960s, he turned his camera to depots, steamboats, bridges, small towns, and barns. Solely a black-and-white photographer, Plowden works almost exclusively with a Hasselblad camera, always with a tripod, and with only a few lenses.
In 1975, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of Transportation commissioned him to photograph railroaders at work. Although photography is his primary voice, Plowden is also a writer, with 20 books to his credit.
Plowden received the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society’s award for photography in 1989. His work has been featured in exhibitions across the country, countless magazine articles, and an Emmy-winning PBS documentary.
“I am trying to make us see what we have lost,” Plowden told Classic Trains magazine in an interview in the Fall 2002 issue. “Life…is a series of moments that are never repeated. You have to get it at that time; you can’t come back, it will always be different.”
See some of David Plowden’s most treasured and acclaimed photographs in the Fall 2002 issue of Classic Trains magazine.