Photographers on Photographers: Mark Ruwedel by Martin Brink

© Mark Ruwedel, Central Pacific #18, 1994, from the series "Western the Course of Empire"

In 2008 Mark Ruwedel's book "Westward the Course of Empire" was published, containing 72 photographs of the "residual landforms created by the scores of railroads built in the American and Canadian West since 1869." (Yale University Press) I've got to admit that I do not own the book (yet), haven't seen an exhibition of the work and have actually only seen photos from the project online. But there's something about the photographs that grabs me. Maybe it's the obvious, yet discrete signs of past life, technology and history. Looking at them is a bit like looking at photos of Mars or the Moon, but finding signs of life and a past instead of nothing. As time passes maybe the photographs will be all that remains of some of these signs.

In 2011 I started and finished my project "Walks." In contrast to "WCE" it was about moments and a practice in composition, and not about history, place and documentation. Instead of 8x10 film I used a compact digital camera and the photos in “Walks” depicted the short moment I saw a scene in front of me I considered worth photographing during my walks. With these differences in mind, I now look at Ruwedel’s work and wonder how much time he spent finding the locations, how far he walked or drove along the long-gone railroad tracks to see the photographs gradually develop, and finally find the right spot to set up his camera.

"WCE” is a really good example of photography in relation to time. I don’t get the sense that I’m looking at a 1/125 second exposure, I’m getting the sense that I’m looking at 125 years of exposure. What I’ve written may just sound like a bunch of drivel without any sort of conclusion or ending. Maybe that’s a good thing, because that means that it’s open for further examination and interpretation, especially by myself. I’m getting the book.

Martin Brink is a photographer and artist based in Helsingborg, Sweden.

© Martin Brink, from the series "Walks"