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Stories @ TCC


From Saving Old Photos to Shooting Trains

Photo by Bradly Smith


Nicole Michael photographs best friends – not just any best friends, but the Best Friend of Charleston, a 1928 replica of the famed locomotive once displayed at the New York Stock Exchange. The TCC photography student, in a cooperative education position (co-op) at Norfolk Southern Corp., captured shots of the train’s move from Charleston, S.C., to Chattanooga, Tenn., for restoration and refurbishing.


“My interest in photography started with old cars,” says Michael, “I wanted to work for Hot Rod magazine.” Instead, she worked in portrait studios and taught ballroom dancing before enrolling in photography classes at TCC. Photography proved a good fit for Michael, who notes, “I have ideas that I can’t quite put on paper that I can express through photography.”

While taking photography classes she landed a co-op – where students learn while earning pay – at Norfolk Southern. Immersed in all aspects of corporate photography, Michael began by cataloging an extensive collection of archival documents and pre-1930s photographic negatives, glass plates and photos of locomotives and rail scenes reflecting America’s rich rail history. “The oldest image I’ve archived dates back to 1883, and some are deteriorated. We’re scanning in photographs and some will be restored,” she says.

As her co-op has progressed, Michael’s work has expanded from archiving to photography. “I really like going out in the field and into the diesel shops to take pictures. When the company filmed a commercial in Natural Bridge, I photographed locomotives. We wear full safety gear, including hard hats, safety glasses and steel-toe boots for these assignments.”

After graduation from TCC, Michael plans to work in corporate photography and ultimately earn her four-year degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.