'Some people might say these are romantic pictures," says New York photographer Richard Baron, "but I like to think they're about romantic pictures."
So be sure, the landscapes on these pages are not the romatic landscapes of a Minor White or an Ansel Adams, photographers who record nature with a kind of lyrical perfection and gravity. For one thing, Baron's photographs were all shot from an AMTRAK train -- "not out the window but from a place between the cars" -- and so contain the element of motion and are in a sense dependent on chance. "In the ones where motion is most apparent, what they're about is things speeding by," Baron says. "I like the fact that I'm not manipulating the picture in any way to make it blurry. It just is blurry."
Baron hit on his subject matter by accident -- "just fooling around" -- while riding the Merroliner between New York and Philadelphia, but was so interested in the results that he decided to do an entire sequence of the pictures. For the past 18 months Baron has traveled all the major AMTRAK routes, including the five recently discontinued, and has taken "hundreds" of photographs.
In our American mythology, trains have taken on a romantic nostalgia, especially as they disappear, and the fact that they are photographed from a train is part of what makes Baron's pictures "about romantic pictures." And what Baron usually sees from those trains is a "romantic landscape in contrast with a contemporary subject." The ones the photographer himself likes best are the ones that contain "something manmade" -- cars, factories, telephone wires, billboards.
All of this places Baron in the mainstream of contemporary photography, which has moved further and further from photojournalism to become increasingly self-referential and low in narrative content. "I don't like to give much information," he says. "I want the person looking at my pictures to have to do some work. That's why I don't really like nature photography. There's nothing for the viewer to do."