Subject and Subject Matter

Please read the text before forming an opinion about this picture.

It’s easy to describe what’s was in front of the camera, that’s what cameras are good at.

But for me to do descriptive reality would be the last of my intentions.

It’s so easy not to connect the subject and the subject matter of a picture. In this case the subject of the picture is the dire and dirty working conditions of hundreds of thousands of railway men in the steam age. Men who gave their labour and service to the company in return for poor pay and chronic health problems.The subject matter is a locomotive and driver on the WHR.

As an ex railway worker who occasionally clocked on at 4 am to work on track maintenance in the cold and wet of winter I have a slight inclining for the way of life those drivers and firemen had.

So before you tell me the picture is too dark and you can’t see details in the shadows remember the all men who lungs were filled with coal dust and hands diseased with cancerous oils. Life is not always bright and fully described with subjects that are easy to look at.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog, please leave a comment and keep smiling.

(c) Andy Beel 2012

23 responses to Subject and Subject Matter

  1. Paula says:

    Andy, I can easily see what needs to be seen and even the driver is clearly there. I like the locomotive so large in the frame; they are, for me too, deeply emotive machines.


  2. COLLEEN E GUNDERSON photography says:

    You make a great point; thank-you for sharing this 🙂


  3. A fantastic photo/print and certainly not too dark. Andy any chance you might skip putting copyright notices on the photos???? They sure distract tremendeously, and I am not sure they do any good..
    Thanks – christian


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Christian – thanks for for the affirmation of print density. I am in two minds about copyright notices. Andy


  4. this photograph is perfect. if anyone needs to see more detail, they are obviously limited in the imagination department and probably shouldn’t be perusing black-and-white photography at all, imo.

    well taken, well presented. and thanks for sharing (lovely machine, btw),


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Alessandro I am well known in the UK for dark prints and the traditionalists complain about lack of detail in the shadows. I couldn’t possible comment on your conclusions re imagination. Thanks Andy


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Kolman there is always something new to think about in photography, that’s what make it so fascinating a profession. Thanks Andy


  5. athyfoto says:

    Hi Andy,
    Powerful image that evokes memories. Not that I ever worked on the railways but as kids we used to go to the shunting yards near Wigan and watch engines coming and going and men grafting away moving trucks around the place.

    If anyone wants to see this little engine in action, go to –

    Now I am going to look at your image for another ten minutes, hard to stop looking at it.


  6. doephotog says:

    Honestly, I don’t think I would have gotten most of that just by looking at the image, not in a Front-Of-My-Mind way. However; I do get the FEEL of it by looking at the image. It’s gritty, it’s dark, the slouch of the man gives a mood.

    I think the darkness in this is an asset, but to me, it’s a personal preference in images to have dark areas to explore. It’s a thing that lets you not only explore the image but your own imagination.

    I’ve come to think though that whatever a person thinks an image is about, they are right. It’s subjective – no accounting for taste of course 🙂 – but I think that’s what makes this medium great.


  7. Murray Foote says:

    I think it makes a big difference when you click on the image to see it in larger size because the grainy, gritty feel that so much enhances the image becomes more apparent. Maybe you’ve got a format for the blog and will stick to it but perhaps it might be better to present some of your images in a larger size.


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