‘Railroading: the hardware, the landscape and the people’

CCAC opens new photography exhibit on June 14

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County Arts Council will be welcoming photographer Oren B. Helbok to the gallery to showcase “Railroading: the Hardware, the Landscape and the People” beginning tomorrow, June 14.

An opening reception will be held tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m. at the gallery and will feature some of Helbok’s most recent photographs.

A Bronx native born in 1965, Helbok missed the age of steam in the United States railroads but that didn’t stop him from trying to relive it wherever and whenever possible.

Helbok has been a photographer, focusing on steam locomotives, since 1972 after receiving his first film camera from his father, John.

He’d go on to get his second, third and fourth one from his father too, who would also teach him composition.

“A few years ago, I asked my father if he had a photographic philosophy, some system of constructing a picture,” Helbok said. “‘I like what my eyes like’ he said to me – and I cannot pretend that I have any clearer explanation of why I make the photos that I do.”

“However, I have realized in the past few years that I want to capture railroading in a big-picture way – the way my father has always looked at the world, putting things into context. To me – and I do not claim any originality in this theory – railroading encompasses three major themes,” he continued.

Helbok explained that the landscape, the hardware and the people who bring trains to life are these themes.

“First, the landscape, and by that I mean everything surrounding the railroad, from towns and countryside to the weather; second, the hardware – the tracks, signals, locomotives, and cars themselves; and third, the people who bring the trains to life,” he said.

Helbok moved from the Bronx area to central Pennsylvania in 1992.

In the late 1990s, after having kids, Helbok took an over decade long break from photography. Although that didn’t stop him from take shots of his kids during that time.

He started up again in 2009 with a digital camera and, since 2015, has spent more than 150 days along railroad tracks.

Some of his influencers include American art photographers Walker Evans and David Plowden as well as Jim Shaughnessy, Phil Hastings and Richard Steinheimer.

Helbok is very thankful for the hundreds of people from railroaders, friends and strangers who have helped him throughout the years and shown him such kindness.

His gallery will be in The Station Gallery, 2 E. Bald Eagle St., Lock Haven, from tomorrow, June 14 to July 6.

Gallery hours are Thursday 1 to 5 p.m., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.