THE 2020 JOHN E. GRUBER Creative Photography Awards Program received 287 submissions from 116 photographers representing twenty-eight states and nine countries. The judges were extremely impressed with the depth of creativity, thought, and image making by each photographer’s interpretation of this year’s theme, “Connections.” Those photographers who presented a powerful and compelling visual story that translated the theme into a memorable, emotive image were rewarded accordingly.
For this year’s contest, the judges’ blind review process focused on the quality of each individual image. The judges chose not to limit one award per photographer when the judges felt that multiple images from the same photographer merited recognition. The judges also felt the quantity of high-quality submissions warranted both color and black-and-white categories of winners.
This year, the First and Third Prize Winner in Color went to a single photographer. Similarly, a Judges’ Also Liked in Color and Black-and-White were awarded to another, single photographer.
The first-, second-, and third-prize winners in each category will receive cash prizes of $750, $500, and $250, respectively. Each photographer recognized in the “Judges Also Liked” category will receive a free one-year subscription to Railroad Heritage.
Connections, Black-and-White Winners:
- First Place: John E. Troxler, Logansport, Indiana
- Second Place: Matthew Malkiewicz, Mount Laurel, New Jersey
- Third Place: Chris Walters, Cherrybrook, New South Wales, Australia
Connections, Color Winners:
- First Place: Steven Chen, Brookfield, Wisconsin
- Second Place: Robin Coombes, Cardiff, Wales
- Third Place: Steven Chen, Brookfield, Wisconsin
Malkiewicz’s low angle of lighting and exquisite composition of wires, well car stacks, and landscape layered by a mesmerizing combination of glint and tone makes this image quite special. The definition of lines and highlights that reach across the foreground shrubs and angled pole, wires, stack containers, and hills beyond pull at one’s emotions. This image presents a story of past and present modes of communication with the string of wires and poles from the 1930s installation of Centralization Traffic Control and the modern stack train, connecting the viewer to the past and to the present. Also intriguing to the judges were the aspects of the image that were left to the viewer’s interpretation: which direction is the train traveling, are the wires still in use… The superb lighting, glint, and diagonal thrust of this image make it a winner.
The innovative use of a diptych—not immediately seen but discovered—celebrates the connection of people to one another and their mode of travel in this view taken from the upper deck of an Australian bi-level passenger train. The contrast of social density on the left side of the image and solitary quiet on the right side adds to the dynamic of capturing intimate scenes of life on a passenger train, a photograph that takes risk and is rewarded.
A symphony of connections in a steam locomotive’s running gear: the artistic and technical expertise of this image, freezing the crosshead in stop action while blurring the movement of the rest of the composition, amazed the judges. The mystery of how the scene was captured, coupled with a sense of almost being able to hear the driving wheel’s movement and smell the oil and steam, left a lasting emotional mark on the judges.
Once the center of the community and a railroad hub, now passed by in the light of the night, this romantic station image captivated the judges on several levels. The connection of place to the railroad is elegantly presented, where the station and foreground rail and ballast are the only motionless elements in the scene. They anchor this image, which is visually wrapped by the movement of trains and automobiles, connecting a local thread to an evolving world.