With the trend of using train tracks in photographs continuing seemingly unabated, we hear of another avoidable tragedy far too often. One railroad has had enough.
Union Pacific Railroad has recently launched a social media campaign strongly encouraging photographers and high school seniors to stop taking photos on or near train tracks. Using the hashtags #TracksAreForTrains and #SafeSeniorPhoto, they have encouraged the public to hashtag safe photos (particularly senior photos, which seems to be particularly prone to this trend) that do not involve train tracks. They have also released a short video that illuminates the ill-fated logic of shooting on tracks, comparing it to shooting on a highway:
Photographing near railroads has long been a hot topic of debate in photography, as it is both illegal and dangerous, but nonetheless, photographers and clients continue to use the tracks, often with tragic results. One only needs to perform a quick Google search to find numerous examples of photographers and clients who have been struck and killed by trains in the midst of photoshoots:
I myself have very little patience for the persistence of this trend. People often make the fatal mistake of believing tracks are abandoned or that trains are so large and loud that they will hear them coming with plenty of time to move from the tracks, but as these stories prove time and time again, this is not the case. Worse, trains can take miles to stop. Often, we hear of photographers or filmmakers who become trapped on a bridge by an oncoming train that cannot stop and end up literally running for their lives, sometimes losing that race. I also find it to be a very careless, selfish and unprofessional way to conduct oneself. It's one thing to place your own life at risk, but to risk the lives of your clients is utterly unacceptable. Furthermore, no train engineer wants to spend the rest of their life knowing that a train they were in command of ended someone's life. When we make assumptions about the schedule, loudness, or agility of trains, we are taking a perilous and unnecessary gamble.
Even if the dangerous nature and illegality of photographing on train tracks doesn't sway you, the cliché and uncreative essence of it should. We've all seen hundreds, if not thousands of train track photos in our careers. Let's find a more creative, inspiring and safe way to take pictures that doesn't risk the lives and well-being of ourselves, our clients and train operators in the process. Read more from Union Pacific here.
Lead image by Wikipedia user Kmw2700