O. Winston Link
Winston Link was an American photographer born in Brooklyn, NY in 1914. He is best known for his black-and-white photography and sound recordings of the last days of steam locomotive railroading in the late 1950s. A commercial photographer, Link pioneered night photography.
While in Staunton, VA for an industrial photography job in 1955, Link’s longstanding love of railroads became focused on the nearby Norfolk and Western Railway line. The N&W was the last major railroad to make the transition from steam to diesel power.
Link took his first night photograph of the railroad on January 21, 1955, in Waynesboro, VA. On May 29, 1955, the N&W announced its first conversion to diesel, and Link’s work became a documentation of the end of the steam era. His last night shot was taken in 1959 and the last of all in 1960, the year the railroad completed the transition to diesel.
Link’s images were always meticulously posed, and he chose to take most of his railroad photographs at night. He said “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.” Link’s vision required him to develop new techniques for flash photography of such large subjects. For instance, the movie theater image Hotshot Eastbound (Iaeger, West Virginia), photographed in 1956, used 43 flashbulbs fired simultaneously. Link, with an assistant such as George Thom, had to lug all his equipment into position and wire it. This was done in a series so any failure would prevent a picture being taken at all; and in taking night shots of moving trains, the right position for the subject could only be guessed at.
A traveling exhibition in 1983 brought his work to a wider public as did Paul Yule’s award-winning documentary “Trains That Passed in the Night” (1990), in which Link re-visited the scenes of his classic photographs of the Norfolk and Western.