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Shaughnessy, Jim (ca. 1933-) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Shaughnessy, Jim (ca. 1933-)

Historical Note:

Jim Shaughnessy of Troy, New York, is a railroad photographer who, beginning the 1950s, led with a small group of others in adapting railroad photography, as old as trains and cameras themselves, to the portability and speed of 35mm camera and film technology.  Keith Axline, in a 2008 Wired.com story, reports that Shaughnessy began photographing trains at the age of thirteen, in 1946.  With encouragement from Kalmback Publishing’s Trains editor Dale Morgan, according to an essay on Shaughnessy on the Center for Railroad Photography and Art (CRPA) website, railroad photographers began to evolve their work into art, looking beyond the trains themselves to their geographic and cultural environments. They developed a new visual language that slowly transformed railfan print media.


In addition to his photographs and work appearing in Trains, Shaughnessy published books, such as his scholarly Delaware & Hudson (Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1967), 476 pp., a thorough illustrated history of the early 18th c. enterprise that evolved from canals into railroads.  Of course, the more recent history of the rail line is documented by Shaughnessy and his colleagues, such as Donald W. Furler, Philip R. Hastings, William D. Middleton.  While Shaughnessy’s own images add up to around forty in number, they are only a fraction of the whole for his monumental book.  In Delaware & Hudson Shaughnessy balances railfan fascination with history and technology with an artistic, cultural/geographical vision of the realm of the historic line.  It was and is one of the best of its type.


But in the 2000s art photographer Jeff Brouws, himself a railfan also since thirteen, set about showcasing Shaughnessy’s body of work, and produced the Call of Trains project: a book by W. W. Norton (2008), and working with CRPA developed exhibits for the O. Winston Link Museum, Raleigh, NC, and California State Railroad Museum, Sacremento.  He also displayed Shaughnessy’s work, printed by him, at the 2009 CRPA railroad photography conference, Lake Forest College.  And from this significant three-coastal show eleven images were donated by Shaughnessy and Brouws to Lake Forest College’s library Special Collections.  These superb prints make up this collection.


Jeffrey T. Brouws, born in San Francisco in 1955, is an author and photographer based in New York state with his spouse Wendy.  He is author of seven books, covering the field of industrial archeology like David Plowden and Shaughnessy himself.  Recently he has become the major theoretician of the railroad photography community, with major articles on the field and cultural geography and on Shaughnessy and his example, both in the Quarterly of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (Spring and Summer 2008, respectively).  He also plays a leading role in planning and producing the annual CRPA conferences at Lake Forest.

Note Author: Arthur H. Miller, amiller@lakeforest.edu

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