• 2019

  • Jim Shaugnessy’s 60-Year Odyssey Photographing the Evolution of the North American Railroad

  • Jim Shaughnessy, “Central Vermont local freight switches cars in wintry scene, Bethel, Vermont” (1955) (source: the artist and Thames & Hudson)

    Allison Meier at Hyperallergic:

    “Always restless, even daring when he had to be, Shaughnessy worked hard to get in and around the railroad, in all conditions, in all settings,” writes Kevin P. Keefe, former editor-in-chief of Trains magazine, in a book essay. “If the life of a crossing watchman was important, then Shaughnessy shuddered through a subzero night until the perfect moment when his subject dashed back into the warmth of a shanty. If the guts of a steam locomotive were interesting, then he’d insert himself into the depths of roundhouses and sidle up next to the hostlers in order to record the oily intricacies of valve gear and side rods.”

    Born in Troy, New York, in 1933, Shaughnessy published his first photograph in Trains in 1952. While the detailed captions in Essential Witness are those of a true rail enthusiast (the “Pennsylvania Railroad 11-class 2-10-0” is identified as chugging over an elevated bridge), his images have a broader appreciation for how people exist with the railroads in North America, and how these systems altered the landscape. The silhouette of a tunnel in Canaan, New York, in 1989 reveals its jagged edges, framing the train with this rock that was blasted through for progress. Sometimes the trains are tiny against the mountains or waterfalls, sometimes the focus is elsewhere, like a 1953 photograph that concentrates on the cows in a Vermont pasture, unperturbed by the freight train zooming behind.

    Jim Shaughnessy, “Pennsylvania Railroad operator hoops up train orders to crew of a northbound coal train, Trout Run, Pennsylvania” (1956) (source: the artist and Thames & Hudson)

    I love this photo. Train orders, are largely obsolete here in North America. But sometimes, it still happens. Traditionally orders get hooped to the conductor at the front, and the operator(s) at the caboose. Nowadays, operations are radioed or even downloaded.

    Locomotive transport is and continues to be one of the most important means of transporting goods across land. It’s fun to look back and understand where we’ve come from, and to see where we’re headed.

  • The 1619 Project

  • The year is currently 2019. This marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved peoples to American soil. The virginal wharfs America’s first slaves arrived on were likely shallow and crude. The ships were packed, grueling and nightmarish. America’s fledgling colony began here, in Virginia on the backs of slave-trading and cotton. The ironic state motto, entombed 150 years later in 1776 by George Mason at the Virginia Convention became (and still unchanged), Sic Semper Tyrannis, roughly meaning, death to tyrants or down to tyrants.

    400 years later, and Black Americans are still battling for the equality they deserve. The phenomenon of equality and protected freedoms may have been only ink on paper in 1776. But, Black Americans have fought to make it a reality. We owe Black America gratitude and thanks, and instead they are met with slavery, brutality, whitewashed history and often, violence.

    The introductory essay details an excellent cross-section of the four centuries of inequality, written by the project’s lead, Nikole Hannah-Jones:

    This ideology — that black people belonged to an inferior, subhuman race — did not simply disappear once slavery ended. If the formerly enslaved and their descendants became educated, if we thrived in the jobs white people did, if we excelled in the sciences and arts, then the entire justification for how this nation allowed slavery would collapse. Free black people posed a danger to the country’s idea of itself as exceptional; we held up the mirror in which the nation preferred not to peer. And so the inhumanity visited on black people by every generation of white America justified the inhumanity of the past.

    More context from the removed Twitter Thread authored by Jones, captured via Thread Reader:

    The 1619 Project has a single focus. A mission to arm all Americans with the truth. Reframe America’s textbook-whitewashed history with the truth and honesty they deserve. Add context and proper attribution to the Black Americans who have previously been left out of America’s founding narrative.

    The #1619Project published online today and it is my profound hope that we will reframe for our readers the way we understand our nation, the legacy of slavery, and most importantly, the unparalleled role black people have played in this democracy.


    The conceit of the magazine is that nothing about modern American life has been left untouched by the colonists’ decision to purchase that first group of enslaved Africans, that the year 1619 is as important to the American story as the year 1776.

    The #1619Project is at one one of the most profoundly beautiful things I have ever seen, & also one of the most devastating. The arguments, meticulously researched, powerfully argued, make what to me is an irrefutable case that it’s time to rewrite our narrative & tell the truth.

    The contributors page tells a powerful story. Black writers, black poets, black photographers, original works from black artists. We are the descendants who are here to set the record straight.

    Nikole Hannah Jones, Aug 14th 2019

    The 1619 Project is led by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a seasoned reporter at The New York Times. Over the coming weeks and months, The Times will be adding more stories, essays, poems and works to continue the discourse.

    You can visit and read all of the essays here.

  • The Center for American Politics and Design

  • A selection of various political logos collected (so far).

    From their about page:

    The Center for American Politics and Design (CAPD) is a research group investigating the graphic vernacular of American politics.

    The first of its kind, this collection consists of every campaign logo† from the 2018 election for United States Congress. The archive is a tool to explore trends and typologies that reveal themselves only when viewed in aggregate.

    Founded in 2018, CAPD aims to increase political literacy among designers and to foster a dialogue about the role of design in the American democratic process.

    Our complete dataset is available upon request; we welcome anyone to use this collection to conduct their own analyses.

    This is a cool project. The topography of the political design landscape is so vitally important, and (in my opinion) has not been investigated thoroughly enough. It’s a monstrously large undertaking no doubt. It makes me uncomfortable to think about what horrors we may unearth about ourselves from this project. Personally, when I begin to think about dissecting our collective American graphical political heritage, I begin to think about Paula Scher’s Maps.

    Play around with the filter function on the homepage and compare/contrast regions of the US. For example, compare Rhode Island to Texas. Now look at Nebraska. You can go even further by filtering by Office, or Incumbency.

    Fascinating stuff. I’m going to love revisiting this in a few years.