French, who joined the Center in 2002 and its board in 2009, brings a wealth of business, financial, and cultural knowledge to the organization’s leadership. Bon manages the Chicago-based investment firm, Adams Street Partners. In addition, he serves as a trustee of Northwestern University, as a member of the Kellogg Graduate School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board, and on the board of the Chicago History Museum. An active railroad photographer, he has photographed more than 650 different railroads in the United States and Canada. French commented, “I am pleased to continue to help the Center grow and prosper in any way I can. It is marvelous how many different talents we have on the board.”
Lothes joined the Center’s staff on a part-time basis in 2008 and has steadily taken on more responsibilities. He is an award-winning photographer and widely published author, with more than 300 photographs in print and 40 bylined articles to his credit, including many in Trains and other railroad magazines. At the Center he has also proved his remarkable skills as an executive. Lothes said, “The Center is on a great path thanks to John Gruber’s vision and dedication, the loyalty of our members, and the board’s strength and support. I am grateful for their confidence and look forward to a bright future.”
Over the course of the past few years, the Center has enjoyed a robust expansion in both scope and practice. The coming “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano” exhibition at the Chicago History Museum represents a substantial advancement in the Center’s efforts to showcase the role of railroad photography in public history. In addition, another outstanding “Conversations about Photography” conference is slated for Lake Forest College this April 12-14. Educational, inspirational, and entertaining, the conference remains the highlight of the year for many railroad photographers.
The Center continues to thrive and evolve as a vibrant, nationally recognized organization, looking ahead to many years of continued success in promoting the incredible wealth of visual arts and images associated with railroading. We look forward, as well, to the continued support of our many colleagues, members, and fans.
He said, “I thank the directors and members for their enthusiastic support through the years, and am confident the Center will continue to prosper under its new leadership. I will be taking advantage of the opportunity to continue writing and photography projects and books, which have been delayed during my years at the Center.”
Mel Patrick, a renowned railroad photographer and long-time Center member, speaks for many with these remarks, “In my mind, John is one of three people who I identify as having brought ‘class’ to the hobby that we share with such passion—the other two are Lucius Beebe and David Morgan. John has always been a quiet giant in our field, encouraging the new photographers as well as recognizing those who came before us. Well done, Mr. Gruber; we all stand in your shadow and are thankful for all that you have given us.”
Gruber, a native of Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent much of his professional career in its publications department. He has been a freelance railroad photographer and writer since 1960, and he served as the editor of Vintage Rails magazine from 1995-99. He received a lifetime achievement award for photography in 1994 from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS). Gruber is a founding member of the Center, having signed the incorporation papers in 1997. Since then he has served as its only president and editor of its journal, Railroad Heritage.
Thanks to an early partnership that Gruber helped forge with the Archives and Special Collections department of Lake Forest College’s Donnelley and Lee Library, the Center has become an important repository of railroad images. Its holdings include the photography of railroad watercolor artist Ted Rose and the photography of former Trains magazine editor Wallace W. Abbey, which Trains helped fund with its 2010 preservation award. Recent acquisitions include the collections of railroad photographers John F. Bjorklund, Hal Lewis, and Fred M. Springer.
Under Gruber’s leadership, the Center has grown to become a nationally significant arts and education nonprofit organization devoted to railroading in North America—the only such institution. Its programs serve the substantial community of railroad photographers—amateurs and professionals—on the North American continent. Its traveling exhibitions have appeared in railroad and art museums across the country, including the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee; the California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento; and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
The Center has produced 31 issues of Railroad Heritage since Gruber launched the journal in 2000, including critically acclaimed special issues, Railroad History in a Nutshell and Railroad Preservation in a Nutshell. Recently, two Railroad Heritage articles have received the David P. Morgan Article Award from the R&LHS—the top prize for articles published on railroad history in any American publication.
Also under his leadership, every spring since 2003 the Center has hosted an annual conference, “Conversations about Photography.” It has grown from a one-day event with forty attendees to three days and 160 attendees. All but one has been on the campus of Lake Forest College, including the 2013 edition, which will be April 12-14.
Gruber also conceived and promoted the Center’s largest project to date: “Faces of Chicago’s Railroad Community: Photographs by Jack Delano,” an exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, April 4, 2014, to August 10, 2015. The project will bring Delano’s 1942-43 highly diverse American railroad story in pictures to one of the nation’s foremost public history museums. Gruber has played and will continue to play vital roles in research, writing, and publishing the catalog.
The Center’s board of directors will meet on February 27 to elect a new president. Executive director Scott Lothes, hired full-time in August 2011, will take over editorial duties of Railroad Heritage and continue to manage the organization’s day-to-day activities. Gruber sees a bright future for the Center, saying, “It has been rewarding to see the Center prosper and become the leading railroad visual arts organization in North America. The Center now has a well-qualified board and executive director to move it forward.”
Peter Lewis, 18 and a native of Clemson, South Carolina, was home-schooled and now attends Clemson University as a freshman majoring in pre-business. He says, “I can’t count the number of times I have gotten up at 5 o’clock on a Saturday morning to seek out a few trains. Regularly, I would ride my bike to the railroad track.” Additionally, he frequently serves as a volunteer photographer at events throughout the region. See more of his work on RailPictures.net.
John Sanderson, 29, is a rising young professional photographer in New York City where he has shown his general work as well as his railroad specialty at five galleries. He is a graduate of Hunter College, New York City, in political science. Of his choice to use 4×5 and 8×10 view cameras, he says, “The larger format changed my approach to the landscape. Since I could no longer capture fast-moving objects as I could with 35mm, I became more contemplative of the moment than I was with the smaller camera. I started to see the movement of light and shadow across a scene as important as a rumbling train.” See more of Sanderson’s work at www.john-sanderson.com.
This is the inaugural year for conference scholarships, which cover all expenses including travel for two young or emerging photographers. Applicants had to submit ten images with a statement of purpose and meet one of three criteria: under 30 years of age, enrolled in an art-related higher-education program, or have less than five years experience in the field. Support for the effort came from the sixteen patrons of the 2012 conference. They are Darryl Bond, Norman Carlson, Charles Castner, Bon French, John Gruber, Nona Hill, Clark Johnson, Jim Koglin, Jeff Mast, Brian Matsumoto, David Mattoon, Don Phillips, Kenneth Rehor, Michael Schmidt, Jeffrey Smith, and Michael Valentine.
The eleventh annual Conversations about Photography is April 12-14, 2013, for the tenth time on the campus of co-sponsor Lake Forest College, 30 miles north of Chicago. Other sponsors include Trains, Classic Trains, Canon, Railfan & Railroad, and the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. The event begins at 5:30 on Friday with a reception, dinner, and keynote address by Tony Reevy on his new book about O. Winston Link’s photography. Saturday features a full day of presentations headlined by Norfolk Southern company photographer Casey Thomason, with a reception in the evening. Sunday morning workshops include a panel discussion on railroad journalism led by Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains magazine.
Visit the conference page for more details and to purchase tickets. Consider becoming a patron to ensuring that the scholarship program continues in 2014 and beyond.