Ralph Anastasio, rest in peace.

When I was but a small and weird boy, my uncle Ralph lived across the hall from us in one of those large old ‘pre-war’ NYC apartment buildings (various relatives over the years have and still do live there). Single and with no children, Ralph had a serious travel bug and left town whenever he could. He was also a serious railroad nerd, photographing them along his travels. On slow weekends he’d present slide shows of his work to myself, my two brothers and 3 cousins who also grew up in the same building. The one thing that really stuck in my head was how he’d point out how quickly things had changed – scenes from many of these photos simply didn’t exist anymore. His simple documentary style captured fleeting moments that have since long past. To the best of my knowledge he never sought to have any of his photos published. Trading slides with some fellow railroad nerds via the US Postal Service and the slideshows he presented to immediate family was the extent of who has seen his work.

When he moved out west a bit over 20 years ago, he left me with his railroad slide collection and my first two ‘real’ cameras, a Konica SLR and a Canon AE1. I found myself using them immediately. Photograph rapidly became one of my hobbies. I still have the slide collection – which catalogs his US railroad photography from the 70s through the late 1980s. There are thousands of slides, carefully packed in cubes that fit an old slide projector, ready for an old fashion slideshow. It would cost a small fortune to digitize them all. Maybe someday.

He also left a stack of 8×10 prints. When I learned of his passing earlier this year, I pulled out this box and knew I had to post something from this collection to commemorate his work. I settled on the one theme that really seemed to stick out: photographs of several GG1 electric locomotives. From the sheer volume of prints with this locomotive model as it’s subject, I can only assume it was one of his favorites. It’s easy to see why – they were stylish machines that endured for several decades, and were painted in a variety of colors as they passed in ownership, from the Pennsylvania railroad, to Penn Central, Conrail, Amtrak and NJ transit.

Looking at these, I can’t help but to see the similarities in my day to day photography work. I don’t think I ever actually went out shooting with him, but it’s clear to me where my style came from.

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