Pictures of You, Pictures of Me

A number of years ago we were putting together the opening video for the general session at the ASLRRA Connections, and after doing the typical pictures of locomotives videos for the open in previous years, we decided that this year we wanted something different. We asked for pictures of people. And we got people pictures. Lots of them, and in the end we created a video that in a little over two minutes showed the faces of our industry, the people who made the freight move. It didn’t matter what part of the business they were a part of, from track, to operations, to maintenance, and administration, they all were a part of what made the freight move on the tracks. We did a number of opening pieces for the annual meeting over the years, and the one with the people is still one of my favorites.It may surprise some of you that I did not get my start in journalism writing a blog for RailResource. In fact, my start in journalism came in the 1985-1986 school year at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., where I took journalism as my senior English class, and I was the photography editor of the weekly school newspaper, The Columbian. I’ll admit now that I took the class more for the friends who were in it and the fact that I wasn’t going to have to deal with poetry or Shakespeare, and while I did write a number of articles throughout the year (including an interview with E-Street Drummer Max Weinberg), my primary focus was on the pictures.Growing up I always had an interest in photography, probably because my father did, and he enabled my interest to grow when on my 16th birthday I received my first 35mm SLR camera. That was in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, and as I learned to use the camera and got (somewhat) better at composing photographs, people started asking for copies of my pictures. Remember this was the middle 80’s and getting copies of a picture wasn’t as easy as sending an email (email was not in wide use yet, and digital pictures only came from satellites in space), so I also learned to process black and white film and print pictures myself in the darkroom that my father had. I got better at my hobby, and by the time junior year ended, it was on to the newspaper world and “serious” photography.I spent almost every day of school my senior year with my camera with me, and I took pictures. A lot of pictures. By the time the school year ended, I took almost 1000 frames of film, mostly B&W, and a bunch of slides. The pictures were of everything that one goes through in their senior year of high school, from plays, sports, special events, trips, classes and dances, and most of the pictures were never seen, because other than the couple that got used for the newspaper or maybe made it into the yearbook, the negatives got tossed into a box, and I moved on to the next week’s assignments.Fast forward to 2016, and my high school class is putting together the plans for our 30-year reunion. With the advent of social media, especially Facebook, a lot of us have stayed in touch more than most would have in the past. For example, of the roughly 340 people in my graduating class, over 230 are in our Facebook group. As the discussions for the reunion started, and the planning committee worked on the details, I mentioned to a couple of my close friends from high school that I still had the box of pictures, and asked them when would it be the time to share them. One said that she was finally ready after 30 years to see them, and everyone who I spoke to was excited to see them. Then the fun started.If you were judging the photos on quality alone, you probably would not be impressed. But these weren’t photos at this point, they were memories. So I scanned about 100 of them, and put them up on Facebook for all to see. And see them they did, and these photos, which had survived four moves, a basement flood, numerous opportunities to be thrown out, and more importantly 30 years, finally were seen by far more people than had seen them when they were just taken. My favorites (and by counting the likes, the favorites of my classmates) are the candid shots, which really were not my “assignment” to shoot. Some were taken because I was finishing off a roll of film, others were done as atmosphere shots, and because of this most were never seen until now. And now, they are there for everyone to enjoy.Now that I have finished this box of pictures, I know there are more to be found, and the archeological dig will start in my house this weekend. The reunion is in October, and while a lot of the guys will be heavier and have a lot less hair, the women will be just as beautiful as they were 30 years ago. We will remember the old times, and we will remember the ones who can’t be with us, and we will all be happy to be back together again. And there will be a lot of pictures taken to last us the next 30 years.--By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland, vice president and general manager of Massachusetts Central Railroad, is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. He got his start with the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, where he worked for 22 years in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He has served as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and was chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He is currently a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.