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Meaningful Places

Landscape Photographers in the Nineteenth-Century American West

Rachel McLean Sailor

Publication Year: 2014

The early history of photography in America coincided with the Euro-American settlement of the West. This thoughtful book argues that the rich history of western photography cannot be understood by focusing solely on the handful of well-known photographers whose work has come to define the era. Art historian Rachel Sailor points out that most photographers in the West were engaged in producing images for their local communities. These pictures didn’t just entertain the settlers but gave them a way to understand their new home. Photographs could help the settlers adjust to their new circumstances by recording the development of a place—revealing domestication, alteration, and improvement.

The book explores the cultural complexity of regional landscape photography, western places, and local sociopolitical concerns. Photographic imagery, like western paintings from the same era, enabled Euro-Americans to see the new landscape through their own cultural lenses, shaping the idea of the frontier for the people who lived there.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

I have had the pleasure of working with many individuals in many capacities over the course of the years that it has taken to research and write this book. In its first incarnation as a dissertation, I had the good help and support from University of Iowa faculty members Joni Kinsey, Craig Adcock, Sara Adams, Kathleen Diffley...

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pp. xvii-xxviii

Most who view photographs from the nineteenth-century West intuitively understand the photographers’ presence across the vast and diverse landscapes of the sixty years when photography existed in that place and time. Scholars and western enthusiasts, as well, know that photography played an important role in the...

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1: Daguerreotypy and the Landscape: Thomas Easterly, St. Louis, and the Big Mound

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pp. 1-26

St. Louis is an urban center whose rapid development in the mid-nineteenth century was largely due to the commercial opportunity afforded by the Mississippi River. The city is strategically located just south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and at the northern end of the American Bottoms region (the...

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2: Landscape Cartes de Visite: Joel Whitney, Hiawatha, and Minnehaha Falls

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pp. 27-54

On August 15, 1852, the photographer Joel Whitney (1822–1886) accompanied Alexander Hesler (1823–1895) on a legendary hike outside the young city of St. Paul. Six years before Minnesota became a state, they hiked into a remote territory near what would eventually become Minneapolis and made daguerreotype views of...

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3: Wet Plate Collodion and Western Monuments: Peter Britt and Crater Lake

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pp. 55-76

The lure of the Oregon Trail spurred many Americans to make the arduous overland journey in the late 1840s and early 1850s to where “the world-tide stops.” Some of these travelers were itinerant photographers who hoped to profit from the seemingly limitless supply of visual wonders the frontier could provide. By the...

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4: The Photographic Album: Solomon Butcher in Custer County, Nebraska

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pp. 77-104

One of Solomon Butcher’s first photographs was a self-portrait from about 1882 in which he poses proudly at the door of his sod brick dugout in Nebraska, his eyes at the same level as the horizon, which is at the same level as the roof of the dwelling (figure 51). The photograph foreshadowed hundreds of such images that he...

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5: Performing the Pioneer: The Kolbs, the Grand Canyon, Photographic Self-Representation, and Moving Pictures

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pp. 105-134

In 1904, the Grand Canyon photographers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb produced an image titled The View Hunters at Work in the Canyon. It shows Emery dangling in a rope harness with a cumbersome-looking camera while Ellsworth stands astride a narrow gap, supporting him from above (figures 73 and 74). The...

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6: Frontier Photography and Early Modernism: Ansel Adams’s Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail

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pp. 135-160

The Kolb brothers exemplified the kind of scrappy adaptability that early twentieth-century photographers had to perform if they wanted to stay relevant in the early days of amateur photography. As the century progressed, however, photography was increasingly considered as a valid medium alongside high art...

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pp. 161-166

The experiences of Easterly, Whitney, Britt, Butcher, the Kolbs, and Adams as western photographers extensively affected their communities and audiences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and continue to do so today. In a much larger sense, all the photographers of their era cumulatively influenced...


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pp. 167-180


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pp. 181-200


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pp. 201-207

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780826354235
E-ISBN-10: 0826354238
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826354228

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 869735806
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Subject Headings

  • Landscape photography -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Photographers -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
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