Chicago Union Station, 2006.
It’s April, and that means it’s just about time for another trip to Chicago. Why? To attend my second Conversations on Photography, an annual conference put on by the Center for Railroad Photography and Art. This year’s conference will be the center’s eighth such event.
What is the conference? Part convention, part multimedia show, the event — which lasts three days but the bulk of which occurs on the second, full day — is a magnet for serious photographers, writers, and those in the railroad publishing world. It is a great place to meet and talk with others who are putting serious effort into their work. Last year, for example, I go the pleasure of meeting legendary photographer David Plowden, Railfan & Railroad editor Steve Barry, and one of my favorite contemporary rail photographers, Lew Ableidinger. Although the conference does have a serious tone, and does take place in the academic environs of the Lake Forest College campus, it’s also a very enjoyable affair. The presentations have plenty of entertainment value and the crowd is a good mix of amiable folks.
Of course, for a lover of cities such as myself, a trip to Chicago really needs no justification. Due to my involvement as conference staff, I sadly won’t have much time to explore the city, but I will be able to correct a deficiency of my last three visits: I will finally ride both the CTA (aka the El) and Metra. (Strangely, the only rail transit in Chicagoland I’ve ridden is the far more obscure South Shore!)
Last year, I had attended merely to enjoy the show, but thanks to the irrepressible Otto Vondrak, I got roped into a last minute staff gig. This year, I’m on staff from day one, helping make the conference move smoothly. Furthermore, this year I will be doing some live reporting from the conference, with photos and posts going up on the Center’s Facebook page. You do not have to be a Facebook member to view the page, so if you are not able to attend, consider checking in there to see what’s going on.