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American Women's Club of Hamburg

The Museum: My Favorite Haunt

  Puff, puff and whistle; you almost smell the thick stinking steam coming right at you when looking at the intriguing black and white photographs of steam railroading by O. Winston Link (1914 - 2001). The exhibit Train Spotting is on view at the Museum der Arbeit through June 29 2008, presenting Link’s photographs for the first time in Germany. Working as an industrial photographer in New York, Link began photographing steam engines in the Fifties. The 73 photographs on view pay homage to American rural life as well as to the benefits the Norfolk and Western Railway brought to the communities through which its trains passed. Being nearly the only connection with the outside world, the railroad tracks often ran on the settlement’s main street, bringing life, news and excitement into the otherwise mostly isolated and tranquil communities in Virginia.

  O. Winston Link financed the entire five-year cycle of photographing the railroads from the profits of his commercial work in New York and from recordings he took of the noises of the steam engines. Working mostly at night, Link was able to light just those areas that he wanted to show in his stage-like compositions. “You can’t move the sun, and you can’t move the tracks,” he said, explaining why he spent endless hours and days preparing for the one moment, when everything was just right. In “Main Line on Main Street, North Fork, W. Va” (1958), a locomotive puffing white steam into the night sky seems to be moving slowly and peculiarly down a deserted street that is lined on one side by forlorn houses, few with lighted windows.

  To light large-scale scenes like this, Link had to custom build his own equipment. In its final form his flash power supply could fire 60 flash bulbs synchronized to the shutters of up to three cameras in an instantaneous blaze of light equal to 50,000 watts of illumination. Link’s elaborate behind-the-scene preparations produced the most amazing photographs captivating and surprising in their immediacy and beauty.

Pure Sensuality and Zest for Life

  Nudes and landscapes, places and people, news stories, portraits of artists, children, flowers and fruits – all are subjects for German photographer Karin Székessy during the past five decades. Karin Székessy – Photography is on view at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe through August 31 2008.

  Early on her highly aesthetic photographs for print and advertisement gained Székessy fame in Paris, London and even Japan. However, it was her series of cool young female nudes in the 1960s and 1970s - carefully arranged compositions of beautiful bodies sculptured in delicate light - that finally validated Székessy’s work in her hometown Hamburg.

  The spectrum of photographs on view stretches from vintage prints hand made by the artist in her darkroom to printouts of digital pictures that she has been producing since 2000. Her images – whether the celebrated pictures of girls from the 1970s, a very early portrait of Joseph Beuys, or more recent flower and landscape motifs – are characterized by an exquisite sense of aesthetic balance, by beauty and sensuality. At the same time Székessy’s photographs frequently reveal a delightful sense of humor and radiate the artist’s joie de vivre.

originally published in Currents June/July 2008 

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