Posts Tagged ‘Timothy H. O’Sullivan Cañon de Chelle

25
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Timothy H. O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 7th April – 2nd September 2012

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

 

Of all the photographers who accompanied the Western surveys of this era, O’Sullivan remains the most admired, studied and debated. This is a result of the distinctly individual quality of his seeing – his particular union of fact and point of view; his understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph. O’Sullivan’s work remains inspiring and instructive: the clues it holds – to the nature of photography, 19th-century visual culture and the construction of photographic history – challenge and enlarge each new generation of viewers. ~ Press release

 

 

About the only decent sized Timothy O’Sullivan photographs online are here on Art Blart – in this posting and one I did earlier of Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Although some of the photographs from the earlier posting are reproduced again here there are also four new ones, and for that we should be thankful for there are so few quality images to look at on the web.

Following my last posting where I ruminated on the nature of photography, we note that O’Sullivan’s understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph was embodied in his distinctly individual way of seeing. As the above quotation observes, this was “his particular union of fact and point of view.” With this in mind, the photograph I would like you to focus on in this posting is the last one: a prescient abstract expressionist photograph almost eighty years before their advent. The fallen beams remind me of huge ice crystals in a rock cave and then you notice the pick axe at top left and leg and booted foot at right. Hang on a minute, there is another foot tucked underneath!

To have the temerity to photograph this scene in this way and this point in time in the history of photography is outstanding. Imagine being O’Sullivan coming upon this vista, framing the cave-in with beams at left and right of the image plane and detritus at the bottom. He could have left it at that, but no, he hints at the presence of a man, out of frame, doing what exactly we don’t know. It is this plaisir and jouissance that give this photograph its pleasure and pain. The knowledge that we know this scene, as the subject knows himself or herself, gives the photograph its pleasure; the fact that we don’t know what is beyond the edge of the frame, who the man is and what he is doing, fractures these structures and challenges the readers position as subject. As the viewer transgresses the act of pleasurable looking, of enjoying the formal characteristics and textures of the photograph, doubt sets in – what is the man doing, why is he there? As we transgress the pleasure principle the painful principle of what Lacan calls jouissance kicks in. The viewer suffers a crisis of doubt and, conversely, the pattern of the fallen beams of wood and the axe now create a more threatening, claustrophobic atmosphere.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Pyramid and Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Pyramid and Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Geyser Mouth in Ruby Valley, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Geyser Mouth in Ruby Valley, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc..

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan 'Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height' 1873

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height
1873
Albumen print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part, by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

The photographs made by Timothy H. O’Sullivan as part of the United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, or King Survey, comprise an iconic and richly varied body of work. The first of the great post-Civil War Western expeditions, the King Survey was organised under the authority of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers. Between 1867 and 1872, Clarence King, the geologist in charge, and his party studied a vast swath of terrain, approximately 100 by 800 miles, encompassing the path of the soon-to-be-completed transcontinental railroad, from the border of California eastward to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The survey’s official photographer, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, was talented, resourceful and imaginative. In four seasons with King’s group – 1867, 1869 and 1872 – he created a diverse body of photographs: geological studies, landscapes, views of miners and mining operations, records of cities and settlements, studies of the survey itself and self-reflexive meditations on his own presence in the West.

Of all the photographers who accompanied the Western surveys of this era, O’Sullivan remains the most admired, studied and debated. This is a result of the distinctly individual quality of his seeing – his particular union of fact and point of view; his understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph. O’Sullivan’s work remains inspiring and instructive: the clues it holds – to the nature of photography, 19th-century visual culture and the construction of photographic history – challenge and enlarge each new generation of viewers.

The King Survey of the Great Basin, from 1867 to 1872, was the model for the other “great surveys” of the 19th-century American West. Rare and iconic works by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, the King Survey’s official photographer, will be featured in an exhibition at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from April 7 through Sept. 2. Keith F. Davis and Jane L. Aspinwall, respectively senior and assistant curators of photography at the Nelson-Atkins, organised Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs.

“There is good reason that O’Sullivan remains so influential after all these years,” said Davis. “Visually speaking, he was the world’s greatest poker player. He always kept his cards close to his vest. His images are at once boldly straightforward and deeply mysterious, a perfect combination of intuition and calculation. His genius lies, in part, in making such originality appear so effortless.”

There are 60 photographs in the exhibition. Nine were borrowed from the American Geographical Society in Milwaukee, WIS; and the remainder are from the holdings of the Nelson-Atkins. Accompanying the exhibition is a major book, co-authored by Davis and Aspinwall, with contributions by three esteemed scholars: John P. Herron, Francois Brunet, and Mark Klett.

“O’Sullivan continues to influence generations of photographers because of his purely individual melding of fact and point of view,” said Aspinwall. “He was a complicated character, a hearty adventurer, a photographic explorer and innovator, with a bit of the daredevil thrown in the mix.” The book emphasises the context of O’Sullivan’s photographs: his best known images in relation to the complete body of his survey work, the function of the photographs within the survey enterprise, and the scientific and cultural importance of the survey itself. In creating the book, Davis and Aspinwall became engaged in their own kind of “survey,” working from opposite ends of the subject back toward a common centre.

“Jane focused on the evidence of the photographs themselves, tracking down every view and putting them into chronological order,” said Davis. “I began with an overview of the history of western exploration and then attempted to describe the King Survey and O’Sullivan’s career in detail. The meeting point, the crux of the whole project, was O’Sullivan’s remarkable photographs.” Davis became fascinated with O’Sullivan’s work 40 years ago, and his respect for the richness and longevity of his work has increased over the years. “Someone once said that writing a biography usually entails a process of ‘falling out of love’ with one’s subject,” said Davis. “That’s absolutely not true in this case. This exhibition and book have resulted in a newer and deeper admiration for a truly one-of-a-kind photographic achievement. That’s O’Sullivan’s gift to us – and we want to share it. Timothy H. O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs gives visitors a new appreciation of the visual history of the 19th-century American West, while presenting some of the museum’s rarest treasures for public view.

Press release and text from the Nelson-Atkins website

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado' 1874

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Cottonwood Lake, Wasatch Mountains, Utah' 1869

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cottonwood Lake, Wasatch Mountains, Utah
1869
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Shaft of Savage Mine, Virginia City, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Shaft of Savage Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Cave-in, Gould & Curry Mine, Virginia City, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cave-in, Gould & Curry Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Monday 10am – 5pm
Tuesday closed
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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29
Apr
10

Exhibition: ‘Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 9th May 2010

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The photograph shows O’Sullivan’s photographic wagon in which he developed his glass plates.

 

 

O’Sullivan died at the age of forty two but what photographs he left us!
The human scales the sublime, literally; figures in the descriptive landscape.
The last photograph is, if you will forgive the colloquialism, a doozy.

 

“If the world is unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest it is not surprising things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains. Sublime places acknowledge limitations that we might otherwise encounter with anxiety or anger in the ordinary flow of events. It is not just nature that defies us. Human life is as overwhelming, but it is the vast spaces of nature that perhaps provide us with the finest, the most respectful reminder of all that exceeds us. If we spend time with them, they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.”

Alain de Botton. The Art of Travel. London: Penguin, 2002, p.178 – 179.

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Many thankx to Laura Baptiste and the Smithsonian American Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado' 1874

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Black Cañon, Colorado River, From Camp 8, Looking Above' 1871

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Black Cañon, Colorado River, From Camp 8, Looking Above
1871
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Buttes near Green River City, Wyoming' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Buttes near Green River City, Wyoming
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height' 1873

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height
1873
Albumen print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan is the first major exhibition devoted to this remarkable photographer in three decades. The exhibition is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 12 through May 9. The museum is the only venue for the exhibition.

“Framing the West” – a collaboration between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress – offers a critical reevaluation of O’Sullivan’s images and the conditions under which they were made, as well as an examination of their continued importance in the photographic canon. It features more than 120 photographs and stereo cards by O’Sullivan, including a notable group of King Survey photographs from the Library of Congress that have rarely been on public display since 1876. The installation also includes images and observations by six contemporary landscape photographers that comment on the continuing influence of O’Sullivan’s photographs. Toby Jurovics, curator of photography, is the exhibition curator.

“Timothy H. O’Sullivan is widely recognised as an influential figure in the development of photography in America, so I am delighted that we have partnered with our colleagues at the Library of Congress to present this new assessment of his work and to expose a new generation to his forceful images,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“In the years following the Civil War, the West was fertile ground for American photographers, but Timothy H. O’Sullivan has always stood apart in his powerful and direct engagement with the landscape,” said Jurovics. “Almost a century and a half after their making, his photographs still speak with an unparalleled presence and immediacy.”

O’Sullivan was part of a group of critically acclaimed 19th-century photographers – including A.J. Russell, J.K. Hillers and William Bell – who went west in the 1860s and 1870s. O’Sullivan was a photographer for two of the most ambitious geographical surveys of the 19th century. He accompanied geologist Clarence King on the Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Fortieth Parallel and Lt. George M. Wheeler on the Geographical and Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. During his seven seasons (1867-1874) traversing the mountain and desert regions of the Western United States, he created one of the most influential visual accounts of the American interior.

His assignments with the King and Wheeler surveys gave O’Sullivan the freedom to record the Western landscape with a visual and emotional complexity that was without precedent. His photographs illustrated geologic theories and provided information useful to those settling in the West, but they also were a personal record of his encounter with a landscape that was challenging and inspiring.

Of all his colleagues, O’Sullivan has maintained the strongest influence on contemporary practice. The formal directness and lack of picturesque elements in his work appealed to a later generation of photographers who, beginning in the 1970s, turned away from a romanticized view of nature to once again embrace a clear, unsentimental approach to the landscape. Observations about his images by Thomas Joshua Cooper, Eric Paddock, Edward Ranney, Mark Ruwedel, Martin Stupich and Terry Toedtemeier appear in the exhibition and the catalog.

O’Sullivan (1840-1882) was born in Ireland. He emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of two, eventually settling in Staten Island, N.Y. Biographical details about O’Sullivan are spare, yet he is thought to have had his earliest photographic training in the New York studio of portrait photographer Mathew Brady. He is believed to have accompanied Alexander Gardner to Washington, D.C., to assist in opening a branch of the Brady studio in 1858, and when Gardner opened his own studio in Washington in 1863, O’Sullivan followed. O’Sullivan first gained recognition for images made during the Civil War, particularly those from the Battle of Gettysburg, and 41 of his images were published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War. O’Sullivan’s experience photographing in the field helped earn him the position as photographer for King’s survey. After his survey work, he held brief assignments in Washington with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Treasury. O’Sullivan died of tuberculosis on Staten Island at the age of 42.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website [Online] Cited 25/04/2010 no longer available online

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Green River Cañon, Colorado' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Green River Cañon, Colorado
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Horse Shoe Cañon, Green River, Wyoming' 1872

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Horse Shoe Cañon, Green River, Wyoming
1872
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Summit of Wahsatch Range, Utah (Lone Peak)' 1869

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Summit of Wahsatch Range, Utah (Lone Peak)
1869
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, View Across Top of Falls' 1874

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, View Across Top of Falls
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, 1840-1882) 'The Pyramid & Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
The Pyramid & Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Opening hours:
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Smithsonian American Art Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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