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After Promonotory

After Promontory Exhibit Photo

After Promonotory
On Exhibit September 15, 2019 – March 15, 2020

 The Center for Railroad Photography & Art and the Hastings Museum have collaborated to present this exhibition. PHOTOGRAPHY IS After Promontory’s literal and metaphorical lens on the transcontinental railroad boom. Both the book and the exhibition feature period photographs by some of the most ac­complished photographers in the nation’s history, artists such as William Henry Jackson, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and Car­leton E. Watkins. Their photographs were often created with the sponsorship of the railroads, whose leaders saw photogra­phy as a medium suitable for lobbying a distant population (and distant political leaders) on the need for public support and assistance.

Also included in the exhibit is recent photogra­phy from artists who explore the lasting impact the railroads have had on the landscape, both to the benefit and the costs of the region. At stake in all of these images, both period and more contemporary, is not only the railroad itself as a subject, but how photographers of different eras, with different motivations and different sensibilities, have thought of the transcontinental railroads and their legacy.

Expanding on the visual themes in the exhibit, the book offers a deeper look at the circumstances, histories, and impacts of the railroads that came to connect the Midwest with the Pacific Coast. Essays by railroad historians Keith L. Bryant, H. Roger Grant, Don Hofsommer, and Maury Klein add context and depth to the 240 photographs featured in book. Robert D. Krebs, who served in the executive offices of railroads in all three regions, including as chairman and CEO of the BNSF Railway, wrote the foreword. Photographer Drake Hokanson, in the book’s concluding essay, reflects on photographing the transcontinental railroads then and now, and what these images can teach us.

Promontory was an inflection point in the history of the American West—as well as the country as a whole—a moment that both symbolically and literally gave birth to a region of measurement, colonization, and extraction, to what historian Donald Worster has called “the engineered West.” After Promontory explores how photographic artists have received and represented that West both in the era of the transcontinentals, and in the region they have left us to inhabit.

Sponsored Locally by: Hastings Community Foundation

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