When Someone Thinks Your Hobby is Silly

A spring on the door of our dishwasher had broken so we called an appliance repairman to fix it. He been to our home before, but I’d never met him.

on-photography-newI had come downstairs to see how the repairs were going and found the repair guy talking to my wife about someone he knows who photographs trains.

I’ve never met the appliance repairman’s friend, but his name sounded vaguely familiar.

Within seconds it became apparent that the repair guy doesn’t think much of the hobby of photographing trains. “I think you’re both nuts,” he said.

It could have been worse. At least he didn’t say that railroad photographers are engaging in some sort of nefarious activity.

It was yet another example of why I am careful who I talk with about what I enjoy photographing.

The repair guy didn’t say why he thinks it strange that someone would travel for miles to photograph a particular locomotive.

Given the strident tone of his remarks, I didn’t care to explain it to him. He doesn’t want to know and probably wouldn’t understand if someone did explain it to him.

He thinks making photographs of trains is silly and nothing I or anyone else might say in response is going to change his mind.

I generally avoid people like that. It doesn’t matter what they think.

Of course some people are open-minded about the interests of others and have a genuine curiosity about the attraction of railroad photography to those who practice it.

If such a person were to ask me why I make railroad photographs I would say that railroad operations have always fascinated me and that I can’t remember a day in my life when I wasn’t interested in trains.

I don’t know why that is. Why does anyone like what they like? There are reasons for it, but sometimes those are beyond our comprehension.

Maybe it is because trains are large objects that move. I also have an interest in commercial transport aircraft for the same reason.

Maybe those are unsatisfactory explanations for why I like to photograph trains, but I sometimes wonder about those who religiously follow a certain professional Cleveland football team that loses games more often than it wins them.

They talk about what the owners, players and coaches should be doing even though no one with the team will ever hear their ideas or much care about them. Now isn’t that silly? Maybe not if you enjoy doing it and it is harmless fun.

People have passions about certain things and they seldom sit back and wonder why that is. There is no reason to do that. You like something and that’s that.

I’ve never felt a need to do “missionary work” and explain why I and others enjoy photographing railroad operations.

And yet given the post-911 climate we probably should. We probably should seek to educate the public about why we make railroad photographs.

But I don’t want to do that. If someone thinks that making photographs of railroad operations is silly or stupid, well, that’s their problem, not mine.

And yet I know that it does become my problem when their problem becomes the worldview of police officers and others with a well-meaning, but misguided sense of trying to protect national security.

In the meantime, I’m going to go about my business of photographing rail operations. I enjoy it and come to think of it maybe I need no better explanation than that.

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2 Responses to “When Someone Thinks Your Hobby is Silly”

  1. Ben Swope Says:

    Craig, I mirror your views on railroad photography (or aircraft, ships, sports, birds, or what have you), and you make some good points.
    Part of my job function with a railroad contractor is to teach our employees on railroad safety. Within the mandated teaching material is mention of being on the look out for suspicious persons, including “those taking photographs”. It is at that point I stop the training class and explain to the class some of us have a keen interest in railroading, and the fact these folks may even be an asset to railroad safety.
    Railfans do not want to see harm to the railroad, and on many occasions have reported safety defects (crossing gate malfunctions, broken rails, etc.).
    I’m sure may of your readers know or have experienced overzealous “persons of authority” who have given railfans grief while legally perusing their interest. There actions are from ignorance or simply wanting to be the one who makes that “terrorist arrest” and in turn a name for themselves.
    Too bad these people blind themselves from seeing the whole picture.
    Ben Swope

  2. James L.Leasure Says:

    Yes I love photographing and often wonder why I didn’t have
    a brownie camera in the 40′ to witness the hobo’s coming to my
    grandparents house asking for a meal. They never turned them
    away! The tracks on the east side of the farm I could see my granddad Leasure hauling coal out of southeast Ohio on the New York Central.Put out several fires because of the grade on the
    Pennsylania tracks!

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