The Story Behind the Image: A Train Depot Becomes the Perfect Spot for an Intense Portrait

© Natasha Rawls / NatJo Photography

Aspiring model Bryan Stacks (Instagram: @bryan.stacks) had previously worked with photographer Natasha Rawls, so when he suggested doing another photo shoot, she didn’t hesitate. In fact, she already had a location in mind: the Collierville Historic Train Depot in Collierville, Tennessee.

Since Rawls is also a fashion designer and stylist, she even knew the look she wanted for the shoot—all based on a jacket.

“I’ve had a vintage 1950s German officer’s jacket hanging in my closet since an antique dealer gave it to me a few years ago,” she said. “I wanted this [shoot] to be about a young man from that time, coming home from the military, only to learn that his pen-pal girlfriend wasn’t at all like she seemed in her letters. Disappointed, he is contemplating returning to the hell he has just left by train.”

Rawls knew she also had to find the perfect spot: the rear of the engine where coal was thrown into the boiler. Admittedly, Rawls almost passed up this spot because “it was way up and you had to take steps like a straight-up-and-down ladder to get to it. I was terrified of going up that high, but something inside me kept saying, Do it.”

We are so glad she did. This beautiful natural light shot was captured hand-held with a Nikon D500 and a 35mm lens at ISO 320, f/3.2, 1/320 second. To view more of Rawls’s work, visit