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Pierre R. Berastaín

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America Out The Train Window (PHOTOS)

Posted: 09/07/2012 7:00 am

"Americans now think of regions in large-scale terms only: The Midwest, the South, the Pacific Northwest. Terms like High Plains and Missouri Basin mean practically nothing, for vast reaches have become Flyover Land."

-- John Stilgoe, Train Time

By the end of World War II, trains had become a commonality; today, train travel is a commodity. For long-distance travel, aerial crafts have replaced terrestrial vehicles. Consequently, we now think in terms of destinations rather than journeys.

The images that fall in this category aim to recreate landscapes a passenger would see when traveling by train. The scenery would be difficult to see from any other form of transportation, as it is indistinguishable from a plane and inaccessible by car. In this sense, the photographs attempt to recreate visual experiences in long-distance travel.

All the photographs were taken from within a moving train, through the tainted and sometimes dirty windows of Amtrak. The images, thus, portray the altered view a passenger would have while looking out. Although these photographs make us appreciate different American topographies and geographies, they are by no means exhaustive of the vistas one can enjoy from trains in the United States. Trains take us through terrains both beautiful and discolored, and thus narrates a tale of a changing nation. Towns that were vibrant and booming a hundred years ago became desolate, and once verdant lands have been penetrated by oil exploration machinery. To the careful observer, Amtrak narrates these stories.

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  • The above photograph and the one that follows touch on issues of development and the environment. The first one was taken close to Nevada, and the image juxtaposes modernity (the railroad) and an older landscape (the mountain). This juxtaposition portrays a harmony of civilization and environment. The second photograph was taken between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and shows a more confrontational reality: for miles, one could see drilling machinery penetrating the desolate earth. The contrast of these photographs presents what environmental justice and injustice might look like. Justice does not always come in leaving the landscape as is. Instead, environmental justice can be achieved by learning to work with the land rather than against it.


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