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Christopher Marks' Rail Yard, at Lux Coffee Bar

Photos courtesy of Christopher Marks
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Christopher Marks is a Valley artist from the city of Newark, Ohio, who first moved here in 2004, but he's brought a piece of his hometown with him -- photographs of graffitied Ohio trains.

Marks first came to Phoenix to study graphic design at the Art Institute of Phoenix and left after a year, but loved Phoenix and decided to stick around. When he's not working as a graphic and Web designer or photographer, he owns a website that teaches folks how to maintain a saltwater aquarium.

For his first exhibit at Lux Coffee Bar, Rail Yard, Marks took close-up photos of about a dozen different trains and then printed them on a special type of aluminum, giving the tagged trains a unique vibrancy.

We caught up with Marks, who shares his inspirations and process after the jump ...


Where did you get the idea to photograph trains?

It was back in my hometown in this rail yard. My sister owns a photo studio, and she shot some portraits up on these tracks. I always found the backgrounds really interesting. So, I finally went up there with my camera equipment, and just found these super rich textures and colors on these beat up, grungy, graffiti-covered rail cars. I snapped a few photos in 2006, and I absolutely loved them. It wasn't until this past May that I was able to go back there and shoot some more, knowing exactly what I wanted.

Could you try something like this in the Valley?

I would really like to find a good place to shoot out here, but I suspect a lot of the rail yards are a bit more secure, and I certainly don't want to run into the law. These were shot in rural Ohio.

Why graffiti on trains instead of somewhere else?

The coolest part with rail cars is that they have all this hardware -- bolts and rollers for car doors. They're old and aged; they've been through hell. Beat up and weathered you get this grungy, rusty texture. These cars have been painted and repaired, and survived so many things throughout the years that the details are fascinating.

What is the process for printing on aluminum?

They're printed directly onto anodized aluminum. It's a newer printing process where the ink is UV-bonded to the metal. The way the aluminum reflects light back through the colors, it gives it this three-dimensional depth.

Did your background in design help you get a different take on the photos?

Absolutely. My graphic design background influenced the composition of every piece, and the sense of color theory in them. They're from this abstract view where you really can't distinguish much of anything from it.

Why are they all close-ups?
It's a style of photography I've always been interested in -- capturing these gritty details that could be missed.

Are you looking forward to any new projects?

I hope to continue this series by shooting some new areas, but I've got a few other [photography] series in the works I have on the back burner.

The show runs at Lux Coffee Bar, 4404 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, until Oct. 31.

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