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This stunningly beautiful large format book showcases over 150 of the Scottish railway photographs of W.J. Verden Anderson. Bill Anderson was a man who came to define the very best in railway photography in post-war Britain, and today, over 20 years after his untimely death in 1989, it is still common to hear railway photographers talk of a particularly effective image being in "the WJVA style".
For anyone unfamiliar with his work, this book reveals that Bill Anderson typically sought to show trains off to best effect by capturing them at an oblique angle coming towards the photographer, often from an elevated position. The result is usually an image showing the engine taking the starring role, ably supported by its carriages or wagons. Where a different approach is taken, it is usually in order to illustrate some particular feature, or an engine on its own.
One example of an image of a steam engine from the rear, albeit backing towards the camera, illustrates perfectly an untrumpeted and unexpected joy of this book. The train in question is passing a signal box carrying the name "Callander East". This beautiful colour photograph, which in quality terms could have been taken yesterday, was actually taken in 1964 and illustrates a chunk of Scotland's railway network that closed not long afterwards. The houses in the background are doubtless still there in Callander, but the tracks most certainly are not. And because the nature of train photography means that there is inevitably a lot of background surrounding the photographer's main subject, this book turns out to be a goldmine for anyone interested in the way Scotland has evolved over the past six decades. Coalmines and other long gone industrial sites feature in some, as do closed railway lines. Elsewhere it is almost reassuring to see the many elements of our landscape that are unchanged and unchanging.
This is the third volume of Bill Anderson's photographs produced by this combination of authors and publisher, and none are repeated from the earlier volumes. You get no sense, however, that this has in any way constrained the authors' choice or the quality of the images on show. These cover the full four decades of Bill Anderson's Scottish railway photography, from 1949 to 1989. Those from the first decade are exclusively of steam trains, and largely in black and white. Colour then takes over in the photography, while diesel begins its takeover of the subject matter. The book begins with an account of the developments in Bill Anderson's photography and the many cameras he used over the years. In photographic terms the quality of the results is outstanding, and even the oldest of the colour images appear very modern: perhaps because nobody has ever found a better way of photographing trains!