Link Photos on Display at Akron Museum

The Akron Art Museum is featuring 18 black-and-white prints made by the famed railroad photographer O. Winston Link. The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 9, is titled Along the Tracks: O. Winston Link.

A sample of the images can be viewed at the museum website at:

The museum is located at One South High Street in downtown Akron. The hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Link was working for an advertising agency in t he 1950s when he became aware of the rapid dwindling of steam locomotive power in the United States. He sought and received permission from the Norfolk & Western to photograph its steam operations.

The Akron exhibit was organized by Collections Manager Arnold Tunstall and examines Link’s technical prowess with cameras, lighting and a variety of innovations and inventions that he used in documenting life on and along the N&W.

This is not the first time that Link’s work has been shown in Akron. In June 1983, the museum’s Chief Curator Carolyn Carr organized the first American museum exhibit and national tour of Link’s photographs.

The bulk of Link’s work is housed and displayed at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Va. The Link museum opened in 2004 in the former N&W passenger station.

Link was born in Brooklyn in 1914 and photographed trains as a child. He began his N&W project in 1955 with the purpose of creating a tribute to steam-powered locomotives and the diminishing of rural American life.

This included images, many of them made during nighttime hours, of the towns the trains passed through, railroad workers and people who lived along the tracks.

Link traveled thousands of miles of track and at times had to invent techniques that enabled him to create the style that resulted in his making 2,500 negatives.

He is considered a pioneer of nighttime photography and was acclaimed for his technical accomplishments in orchestrating images of trains in action.

Writing for the Akron Beacon Journal, Dorothy Shinn observed that Link’s images in the Akron exhibit “reveal not only his technical mastery, but also his obvious romance with the iron horse.”

Shinn describes Link as a romantic, a trait that served him well as long as he confined it to trains.

As part of the Link exhibit, the Akron museum will show a film about the dramatic turn in Link’s life: The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 11. Admission to the showing of the film is free.

The film will focus on how Link’s wife conspired with another man to rob Link of his wealth.

In 1987 Link, then 73, married Conchita Mendoza, then 48, who helped him market his photographs. However, Mendoza had an affair with a Link assistant, Ed Hayes.

Mendoza and Hayes reportedly kept Link captive and incommunicado in his basement darkroom. Link later escaped and a subsequent criminal investigation and court case following Link’s divorce of Mendoza led to her arrest and conviction of grand theft in the first degree stemming from her stealing about 1,400 photographs. She was subsequently sentenced to six to 20 years in prison, serving nearly five for this 1996 conviction.

Link suffered a heart attack and died near a train station in South Salem, N.Y., in 2001.

In May 2003 Mendoza and Hayes, now her husband, were arrested as they tried to sell some of the stolen prints on eBay.

Shortly after that, a storage unit containing several hundred of Link’s signed enlargements and more than 1,000 4-by-5 signed contact prints, was discovered near her home in Pennsylvania.

Mendoza and Hayes pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property. Hayes was released for time served, but Mendoza was returned to prison for almost another year.

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One Response to “Link Photos on Display at Akron Museum”

  1. Akron Art Museum Says:

    Thanks for sharing about Along the Tracks: O. Winston Link, on view through November 9, 2014. Hope to see some of you at the museum soon, it’s free every Thursday!

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