Sherman Township, Calhoun C, Iowa, 2004. Copyright © 2004 by David Plowden

David Plowden's Iowa


Humanities Iowa worked with renowned photographer David Plowden to develop an exhibit entitled David Plowden’s Iowa and and accompanying book. Proclaimed ‘an American treasure’ by historian David McCullough, David Plowden trained under the great masters of 20th century photography, including Minor White, Nathan Lyons, O. Winston Link and shadow. Plowden’s exhibition, The Hand of Man on America, set the record for longest touring production of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and the Beinecke Library at Yale will curate his body of work for posterity. David Plowden’s Iowa is the collected work of an American master on his favorite state to photograph. The exhibition features familiar rural and small town scenes all Iowans associate with home, especially Iowa’s grain mills and storage bins.

— Humanities Iowa, The University of Iowa

David Plowden: A Sense of Place

This is a collection of 46 mounted black and white photographs of rural and small town Iowa by photographer David Plowden. Dating from the mid 1980s, they document the disappearing face of the rural Iowa landscape. The photographs were jointly contracted and are held by the State Historical Society of Iowa and Humanities Iowa. A book by the same title was published in 1988 by the State Historical Society of Iowa in association with W. W. Norton & Company, New York/London. These photographs have also been shown at the State Historical Building in Des Moines with text written by Dorothy Schwieder, Professor Emerita of History at Iowa State University and recognized expert on Midwestern history.

— Humanities Iowa, The University of Iowa



​The above are traveling exhibitions sponsored by Humanities Iowa.

For more information about these exhibitions click here

St. Luc, Montreal, 1960. Copyright © 1960 by David Plowden​

Links to interviews and articles about this traveling exhibition.



O. Winston Link

Requiem for Steam: The railroad photographs of David Plowden​

A traveling exhibition sponsored by Center for Railroad Photography and Art


“ David Plowden is one of the most important American photographers to make images of the nation’s railroads. His fascination with railroads, and especially steam locomotives, was the root of his life’s work as a photographer. His serious photography education started with an apprenticeship to O. Winston Link in 1958, and then he began studying with Minor White in the fall of 1959. Plowden left White after only six months, the imminent end of steam on the Canadian Pacific calling more strongly than White’s workshop. Frustrated by his new protégé’s decision, but understanding the importance of steam locomotives to Plowden, White said, "Go do your damned engines and get them out of your system or you’ll never do anything again."


Plowden did, and he went onto create a vast body of work documenting the railroad environment. He is best known to railroad enthusiasts and railfans for his images of steam locomotives, yet he has approached nearly every facet of railroading.”*


Current Venue

National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wisconsin,

February 3, 2018 to January 6, 2019