Debating Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) Part Two

Timothy O’Sullivan: Exploring the West

Part Two

For decades the work of the nineteenth century photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan had been relegated to government archives and he was remembered, it at all, as one of the “operatives” of Matthew Brady and an assistant to Alexander Gardner during the American Civil War. Not until the 1930s was the full extent of O’Sullivan’s contribution to photography recognized and he was separated by the curator of photographer Beaumont Newhall at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from being a mere recorder of reality to the status of an “artist.” It is quite possible to discuss Alexander Gardner within the historical context of purpose driven photography without calling him an “artist” in the modern sense of the word. But to photographer Ansel Adams, who rediscovered O’Sullivan in an old album and to Newhall, O’Sullivan should be set apart from his fellow documenters and his work should be discussed in the context of art. The reasons for their conclusions were because, unlike his counterparts working in the American West, O’Sullivan had significantly deviated from standard compositional strategies and had apparently deliberately made what Adams consider “surrealist” versions of landscape. This new interpretation of a man, who was but one of many photographers hired to do a simple job, record new and alien landscapes for the federal patrons in Washington D. C. and for the taxpayers who were funding these scientific projects was perhaps anachronistic and re-placed the practice of O’Sullivan into an artistic context that may or may not have been appropriate. For decades a series of art historians have been debating the precise place of a body of work apparently resistant to placement.

The work of Timothy O’Sullivan could have been done, and in fact was done, by any number of individuals, young and strong and competent with a camera. After gaining experience in the American Civil War, the group of seasoned photographers, now based close to Washington D. C., shifted gears, as it were, to another more peaceful task: photographing the American West. Previous photographers, such as Carleton Watkins, had worked prolifically before the Civil War in order to advertise the pristine and unknown landscape in Yosemite. But the post-war photography had another role that involved exploration and scientific analysis of a new topography. Through the construction of scenic views, Watkins and his generation essentially tamed Yosemite by making the scenery familiar if inherently spectacular. But the American West was far from tame and far from familiar, even after the astonishment of Yosemite.

The inherent strangeness of the desert landscape, the towering mountains–true mountains–not the rolling green hills of the East, the volcanic grounds smoking and spewing, the surging and thrusting upheavals of rock from ocean bottoms were as alien as landscapes on Mars. To Eastern eyes, accustomed to leafy green trees and modestly rounded rock mounds and agricultural vistas verdant and drenched with spring rains, the startling sight of the vast and empty oceans of sand dunes, punctuated by strangely shaped spiked cacti and dangerous plunges of sheer cliffs were shocking and unexpected. And it should be noted that, in the end, when all the debates around Timothy O’Sullivan have subsided, it is the very novelty of this terrifyingly new landscape that probably challenged and intrigued him, perhaps even forcing him to create a new language to describe and explain new lands, entirely unsuited to conventional artistic responses.


Timothy O’Sullivan. Fissure Vent of Steamboat Springs

O’Sullivan, who seemed to have been a natural leader willing to take on responsibility, accompanied two survey exhibitions, one headed by Clarence King, a scientific survey headed by a civilian, and the other headed by Lieutenant George Wheeler, a military survey with a scientific goal. Both surveys, whether civilian or military, were corporate in nature, paving the way for settlements by cataloguing the resources available to the nation, all the while acting under the auspices of science. As a backdrop to this undramatic business was the doomed culture of the Native Americans, a panorama of tribes and a symphony of languages, some allied, some warring, all obstructing the technological progress signified by the locomotive, the “machine in the garden.” These endangered people were recorded and categorized with the same anthropological seriousness reserved for insect life. The mindsets of the participants in the survey parties probably reflected that of the majority of Americans. Even though a Civil War had just been fought on grounds of morality–slavery could not continue in an ethical nation–there was little empathy for the indigenous inhabitants, who had to be summarily removed to make way for the rapidly expanding ambitions of a maturing nation. Like his former colleagues, A. J. Russell and Alexander Gardner, O’Sullivan was a witness to another turning point in American history: the “winning” of the West. These documentary photographers were probably as sanguine as the other newcomers to the future of the region and assumed that the indigenous inhabitants would simply “vanish.” It is unlikely that O’Sullivan, hardened by a long war, would have wondered much about just where this vanishing point would be.


Timothy O’Sullivan. Pah-Ute (Paiute) Indian group, near Cedar, Utah (1872)

The photographic legacy of Timothy O’Sullivan is perhaps less interesting as evidence or as documents than the environmental conditions for the photographer himself. Faced with unprecedented un-European scenes in the unfamiliar Western territories, O’Sullivan had to find a way to photograph the land in such a way as to convey its inherent uncanniness. It is useful at this point to separate the images made by the survey photographer into non-chronological groupings, which would separate out records made of actual survey work, useful notations for the patron, the United States government, from the two predominate vantage points deployed by O’Sullivan–distanced and up close. In the process of making comparisons between landscape sites–then and now–separated by one hundred years, re-photographer, Rick Dingus discovered, apparently unexpectedly, that on occasion O’Sullivan had tilted his camera and, in the process, upended the spectator’s actual place on the scene and replacing it in the literal image with a skewed (and impossible) vantage point.


Timothy O’Sullivan and Rick Dingus.

Witches Rocks, Weber Valley, Utah, 1869 and 1978

The initial brief of the Rephotographic Survey Project was merely to photograph once again, following in the footsteps of the original photographers of the West, including O’Sullivan. On one hand, the modern photographer in 1977 could see the changes wrought by time; and, on the other hand, Dingus could learn more about the photographic practice of the early photographers. The idea that a photographer might select one vantage point over another would not be unexpected, but the entirely un-nineteenth century act of tilting the heavy wooden camera weighted down by a wet plate was something of a shock. There is no answer as to why O’Sullivan would do such a thing or how titling the composition as an option could have even occurred to him. Thanks to Rick Dingus we know that on occasion, Timothy O’Sullivan did something utterly outside of his own time. It seems highly unlikely that either Adams or Newhall would have known of this camera manipulation by O’Sullivan, but such extreme tilting was certainly worthy of the practice of New Vision Photography of the 1920s.


Timothy O’Sullivan. Inscription Rock, El Morro National Monument (1873)

While other of his photographs seem more conventional, but more often than not, O’Sullivan’s images proved to be unusual. Otherwise unremarkable images become, when rephotographed and compared by Dingus, remarkable. From Dingus, we learned that O’Sullivan photographed mountains from the full frontal position, with the face of the slope taking up all of the frame, leaving little background, cutting off the vistas that existed. The resulting images, lacking all but the most cursory foreground and a paucity of background or surrounding context, were not the result of cropping. Although the tilted camera technique was perhaps the most sensational, it is these frontal contemplations of rock faces, free of the expected repoussior or even middle ground reference, points that are the more striking, because they can be directly compared to conventional landscapes, both paintings and photographs of the nineteenth century. Dingus suggested that these odd angles and extreme close ups by O’Sullivan indicated that the photographer was either interested in or was attempting to provide evidence for the then current theory of catastrophe, that the earth was created, not in a uniform manner, but out of a series of catastrophic events which left behind evidence of geological upheavals. “Catastrophism” was the theory that drove the scientific approach of Clarence King on his survey of the West, a site he believed to have been the result of a series of catastrophes. The idea of a tilted camera mimicking a catastrophe is an intriguing one and may be a bit simplistic, but the mindset of the survey leader, Clarence King, is worth studying.

The third and last post on Timothy O’Sullivan continues the discussion on how his photographs can be viewed and understood.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

[email protected]

Debating Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) Part One

Timothy O’Sullivan: Exploring the West

Part One

In retrospect, it is something of an oddity that twenty-one year old Timothy O’Sullivan was not drafted into the ranks of the Union Army for the American Civil War. After all many young Irishmen, fresh to the shores of their adopted country voluntarily joined the military in hopes of quelling the rising anti-Irish sentiment in the Northeast towards foreigners. But O’Sullivan found another role for himself in the terrible war, as assistant photographer to Alexander Gardner, covering the aftermaths of battles and making a unique record of the waging of the first modern industrialized conflict and it unimaginable costs. The point may seem a small one–O’Sullivan did not fight in the Civil War—but his point of origin is uncertain and it is not known where he was born. At one point, the photographer claimed that he was born in America, but upon his death, his own father noted for the official record that his son, an obscure documenter of the American West, had been born in Ireland. And it seems more than probable that the elder Mr. Sullivan was correct: if Timothy O’Sullivan had been of Irish descent and born in America, he would have been drafted and we would remember the Civil War in a far different fashion. Along with Gardner, O’Sullivan made iconic images, once long-lost and forgotten, of a tragic war are now an indelible part of our national psyche. Only two years later, O’Sullivan embarked upon another groundbreaking journey, going into remote corners of a vast desert territory in the American West, in the employ of a man in search of catastrophes.


Clarence King, Salt Lake City, Utah Camp, October 1868

That man was Clarence King (1842-1901), who had also not served in the military during the Civil War. His reasons for not being a soldier seem to be somewhat different. The facts are sketchy, but, given that this young man was once arrested and charged with being a “draft dodger” and given the fact that the case was dropped, suggest that the wealth and privilege of his family exempted him from service. Although the Civil War was a highly emotional conflict and we remember it as being a morally driven cause on both sides, the actual potential combatants were hardly enthusiastic about serving. Like the Viet Nam war, one hundred years later, the privileged young men could avoid the war, while the lower class males–who really had no economic stakes in play–bore the burden. While O’Sullivan was roaming the killing grounds, Clarence King was studying geology and acquainting himself with the scientific debates of his day. On one hand, King was an intellectual and an academic, on the other hand, he was a bit of an adventurer and a believer in the manifest destiny of America, which would be carried forward on the tracks of railroad lines. The Yale graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School became the leader of the Survey of the 40th Parallel at a time when the surveys of the unchartered sections of the West were transitioning away from the military and into the hands of scientists. The goal was not military conquest but conquest through scientific marking and a study of the geology, the natural resources and mineral wealth that coincidentally lay along the route of the railroad. As King later remarked, “Eighteen sixty-seven marks, in the history of national geological work, a turning point, when the science ceased to be dragged in the dust of rapid exploration and took a commanding position in the professional work of the country.”

O’Sullivan, an experienced photographer, was, for all intents and purposes, a valuable member of the crew that worked with King. While the scientists and geologists collected specimens and made scientific observations and recordings, the role of the photographer was to make visual records of the typology, the landscape, the vistas, the details of the terrain. It was not his job, for example, to photograph flora and fauna or insects or the animals killed and turned into artifacts. O’Sullivan photographed the land itself and here is where his task transcends mere objective record and metamorphosed into something quite different, resulting in a body of dramatic photographs, flattened vistas composed of shapes and shadows and edges, suggesting to modern eyes an almost abstract view of terrain. Although O’Sullivan worked with King for three seasons from 1867 to 1869, the Survey leader seems to have made sparing use of the photographs which do not seem to have been given any more value than any other artifact collected during the project. O’Sullivan’s work with King was intermittent and he also spent several seasons with the (Lieutenant George) Wheeler Survey of the 100th Meridian during 1874, 1875, and 1876. During his tenure with the Wheeler Survey, O’Sullivan was working with photographer William Bell, who would be given less responsibility than the Irishman, perhaps due to his less experienced status. These images were published in an album, which according to Lauren Higbee in her article on “The Wheeler Album: Photographic Rhetoric and the Politics of Western Expansion,” was a site of political maneuvering amongst the above participants as well as a political toolwielded by Congress to legitimize its policies in post-Civil War America amid a time of great political corruption and upheaval.” Higbee looked at that album as an “exhibition,” if you will, of the government funded project and functioned as both an advertisement of accomplishment and a scientific showcase of an unknown region of the nation.


Timothy O’Sullivan.View of the White House, Ancestral Pueblo Native American (Anasazi) ruins in Canyon de Chelly

In fact, the body of work produced by O’Sullivan faded from memory and was stored away until seventy years later the photographer Ansel Adams stumbled across O’Sullivan’s landscapes. According to a 2008 article by Britt Salvesen, then of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Adams had acquired an 1874 album from Sierra Club officer Francis Farquhar. This album was the Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, a record of Wheeler’s Survey, which O’Sullivan joined between sessions with King. Perhaps the most famous of the images by O’Sullivan was that of Canyon de Chelly, a striking cliff face in New Mexico. Later Adams himself would retrace the footsteps of O’Sullivan and photograph the site from the same vantage point on his own, but formally speaking, O’Sullivan was seen as a precursor of modernism and placed in the emerging photographic canon. Although those art historians who are more interested in historical context and social conditions are less interested in the O’Sullivan-the-modernist narrative, the photographer still holds a privileged place in the photographic pantheon and this elevation is still based upon the striking visual nature of many of his works.


Timothy O’Sullivan. Vermillion Cañon, Colorado (1872)

By the 1930s, photographers were used to skewed views of the landscape, odd oblique camera angles and unexpected vantage points and O’Sullivan’s photographs were seen within this new context, a context that did not exist when he was working for King and later for another military and mapping survey, for Lieutenant George Wheeler in 1869. Adams called the prescient images taken by O’Sullivan to the attention of Beaumont Newhall of the Museum of Modern Art, and Newhall included O’Sullivan in his centenary (and landmark) celebration of photography, “Photography: 1839–1937,” held in the Spring of 1937. Salvesen mentioned that Adams interpreted O’Sullivan’s work in light of Surrealism, a movement now waning. (There was also the body of Surrealist photography that was emerging from this current movement, but the exact reference of Adams is unclear and he probably was speaking metaphorically). Thanks to the newly established department for photography at the Museum there would be a genuine and on-going attempt to build a historical archive for American photography which would lead to previously ignored works being rediscovered and reconsidered, including O’Sullivan, whose work was also admired by Alfred Stieglitz.

Is is unclear, in 1937, the extent to which the full range of the photography of the West was either known or understood, and it is also unclear if Adams or Newhall understood the extent to which O’Sullivan’s work was “strange,”so to speak, compared to his contemporaries. But Adams apparently sensed something different about what O’Sullivan had done for the survey parties and the term “surrealism” became a handy trope to connote the strong and striking difference between these prints on albumen paper and those by William Bell or William Henry Jackson. But to call any of the photographers of the Western surveys “art” photographers would be incorrect. These were professional photographers, hired hands, following instructions, but they had apparently incorporated, if only through a cultural and visual osmosis, the language of landscape painting and the artifices, such as making sure there is a repoussoir in the foreground and a recession into a vast expanse, all framed in a proper Claudian structure, then three hundred years old. Even though photography was supposedly a record of the real, the observed, the devices used by painters to suggest an illusion of depth, were repeated by the landscape photographers who used the known and the familiar to situate the viewer, even, as in the Western views, the scenes were so unfamiliar they bordered on the “surreal.” The extent to which O’Sullivan deviated from the established norm, ignoring all landscape conventions, was noticeable in the late 1930s but it was the work of re-photographer Rick Dingus forty years later that demonstrated the originality of the work of Timothy O’Sullivan.

Headed by Mark Klett, who was working with protohistorian Ellen Manchester, and sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Polaroid Corporation, the Rephotographic Survey Project was active between 1977 and 1979. JoAnn Verburg was the research coordinator who led the photographers, Rick Dingus and Gordon Bushaw to the exact locations–site, time of day, time of year–where nineteenth century photographers, William Henry Jackson, John K. Hillers, Andrew J. Russell, and Timothy O’Sullivan, once stood photographing the West. On the surface, the Rephotographic Survey Project was a simple retracing of the steps of the originators of Western photography to see how the land had changed, had become overgrown by tourism and otherwise modernized or not, but for a photographer, rephotographing these sites was a chance to analyze the decisions made by their precursors. Carleton Watkins, it is well known, established conventional “views” or the best vantage points for the visitor to Yosemite, but the survey photographers were recording a process of scientific investigation–O’Sullivan’s brief–or a period of technological conquest–the work of A. J. Russell, and it was far from certain that their images would ever find their way to a broad public audience. The intended audience was corporate and political and the often pedestrian language of the pictures reflects that expectation on the part of the employers that the images should be descriptive accompaniments to a more precise discussion provided by proper scientists.

Rick Dingus found that O’Sullivan seemed to be working under a different set of instructions, and in doing so he opened up a new discourse on Timothy O’Sullivan, seemingly adding to the thesis of Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall–that Timothy O’Sullivan was a photographic formalist, an abstractionist, avant la lettre. But other perspectives on the photographer would emerge over the ensuing decades. It is these “pure” landscape photographs that are of most interest to historians. But how “pure” are these landscapes by Timothy O’Sullivan?


Witches Rock #1, Timothy O‘Sullivan, 1869; Witches Rock #1, Rick Dingus for the Rephotographic Survey Project, 1978

In his 1994 article, “Territorial Photography,” Joel Snyder noted that the standard and established use of photographs as “integumental likeness–as passive recordings of preexisting sights.” This passivity and mirroring, not just of what could be seen but of what the audience expected to see, responded, Snyder suggested to the expanding interest in documentary photography. The author related how photographers of the West could find an audience to view and to purchase their views, indicating that these operators were aware of the commercial need to please the customers. But Snyder’s point was more subtle than mere horizon of expectations, he was suggesting that photographs were intended to respond to and to create a collective way of seeing, something he called “distributed vision” or “disinterested” seeing that transcended the individual. These conventions of viewing photographs of the West, based on paintings of the past, were augmented by implied promises of new beginnings in a supposedly virgin land, full of possibilities and ripe for exploitation.

But Timothy O’Sullivan produced a body of counter-images, termed by Synder, as “contrainvitational,” expressing the inherent “hostility” of desperate deserts and high hard rocks of the West. If Snyder is correct, we might assume that because his photographs were intended for a more limited audience, O’Sullivan seized the opportunity to photograph the West in a fashion that foregrounded the unknown. This land was, as Snyder put it, “terra incognito, as a world different from ours, unfamiliar, inhospitable, and terrifying.” Snyder concluded: “O’Sullivan’s photographs, then, are not to be understood as scientific documents, but as something like pictorialized ‘No Trespassing’ signs.” Was it the intention of O’Sullivan to create a vision of forbidden places, too dangerous for the tourist, much less the aspiring settler? We know, as Snyder points out that O’Sullivan, as he had done during the Civil War, manipulated the photographic outcome for dramatic effect, highlighting a stray sand dune to suggest an engulfing desert, but how do his actions–carried out in the midst of scientific exhibitions–square with the idea of a truthful survey of unmapped territory?


Desert Sand Hills near the Sink of Carson, Nevada (1867)

The next post will continue to examine the debate around the intentions of Timothy O’Sullivan and the interpretations of his oeuvre.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

[email protected]

Postmodernism in Photography


Photography became the postmodern art form par excellence, taking the place of painting when the Modernist precepts of European art became exhausted by the 1960s. Unlike painting, photography did not have to grapple with and overcome a high art past, nor was it touched by high art theories. Because photography was, as Pierre Bourdieu would say, The Middle Brow Art, it was ideally suited for Postmodernism to occupy the practice. Even in its virginal state, photography was also impacted by the fact of the “Image World.” As Guy Debord explained it in The Society of the Spectacle,the world had become a “spectacle.”

In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation… The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images. The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that has become objective.

Therefore, contemporary visual culture was, by definition, a spectacle disseminated though photographic forms, reproductions of reproductions, simulacra of a reality that never existed. Through photography, visual culture had become part of the spectacle of popular culture that fascinated its audience and hypnotized them from critiquing society and created a certain kind of social relation. As Debord said, “In a world that is really upside down, the true is a moment of the false.” When Debord’s influential book was published in France in 1967, the vernacular photography of Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander had exhausted itself. The innocence that had allowed photographer or the audience to assume that direct photography was a reliable form of “truth” was crumbling on the disillusionment of the Viet Nam War.

In an Image World overflowing with images and stuffed with history, it is impossible to “take” pictures with a fresh and innocent eye: all pictures are seen only through other pictures–pictorial intertextuality. Photography is no longer about capturing realism, as it was in the days of Robert Frank and his followers, but was concerned with re-creating images of images. Without the possibility of reality, postmodern photographers are not photographers in the historical sense and they cannot photograph objects in the traditional sense. They can only fabricate simulacra or record the hyperreal of the Postmodern world. It would be correct to question the term “photography” in the context of Postmodernism. “Photography,” as a direct and immediate capturing of reality takes a certain amount of naïvité, no longer available in the Postmodern era. All photography has already been done. The term “re-photography” would be more precise to describe Postmodern photography.

By the 1970s, photographers were beginning to explore three issues in the discipline. First, “straight photography” and its corollary documentary photography were played out. Second, the “truth” value of photography had been undermined and the role the medium was playing in constructing a particular kind of society—of spectacle and of complacent citizens—was becoming clear. Third, it “straight photography” could be manipulative of society then it would seem that it was once again permissible to manipulate photography. Postmodern photographers would confront these particular conditions during the eighties in a knowing and often highly theoretical fashion.

Photography as a discipline began to participate in the favorite Postmodern pastime–that of devising strategies and creating tactics that would allow the artist to make art in a world where everything had already been done. Photography became photography about photography–a form of conceptual photography. The Rephotographic Survey beginning in the 1970s is an example of the postmodern attitude towards the act of photographing by rephotographing the already photographed. The artists participating in this project, Mark Klett, Rick Dingus and Linda Conner, meticulously followed in the footsteps of 19th century photographers of the West, re-photographing the famous photographs: photography about photography. Part of the research of this group was to revisit famous sites in the West, first photographed on Survey excursions by Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson, was to take note of the changes over the century. But in the process they discovered that the supposed documentation was actually manipulated by O’Sullivan who produced near abstract images through cropping his prints and/or tilting his camera.

Postmodernism is characterized by self-conscious and deliberate intertextuality. One of the best-known photographers who played with simulacra is Cindy Sherman. Sherman should be termed a performance artist who restages images from mass media. Concentrating on how women were represented by movies, she had herself photographed in a series of small black and white photographs called “Film Stills” during the late 1970s. None of these theatrical re-presentations can be traced back to any actual movie but all remind the viewer of movies they have seen or have heard of and evoke the construction of women in the 1940s and 1950s. Sherman is what can be called a “post-feminist,” or an artist who takes up feminist concerns, not from a political and activist perspective but from a theoretical stance. Because society manipulates the social being who is proved to be infinitely malleable, Postmodernism no longer believes in the Modernist possibility of evolution towards a goal. There is only arbitrary change, determined by the dominant class for its own purposes.

All Postmodern theory can do is to point out that gender is constructed by the culture and by mass media. Unlike early feminism of the 1970s, post-feminism is not essentialist but is constructivist, maintaining that there is no such thing as a “women” only an image that is created by ideology and is named “woman” by the culture. Sherman’s Film Stills are pure simulacra: there is no “woman,” there is only the image of woman. A film is an image of an image of a woman. A film still is an image of a woman of an image of a woman of an image of a woman. Simulacra is a “third order” of “reality,” meaning that a simulacra is three moves away from a reality that never existed in the first place. Because Sherman performs a variety of female roles, playing the woman for a male audience, she should be considered a performance artist who photographs her work, rather than as a traditional photographer.

Sherman was not the only photographer to stress the importance of performance and artifice in Modernism, present in Western art since Édouard Manet. Like Sherman, Jeff Wall uses intertextuality by reenacting significant “major monuments” of Modernist art through the Postmodern art of manipulated photography. One of the early users of computer manipulation, Wall, like Sherman, is less a “photographer” in the classical sense, and actually works in the “directorial mode.” His actors perform for Wall in staged photographs representations Manet and Degas and Cézanne. His recreations are subtle. For example The Destroyed Room refers to Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus and After Ralph Ellison, showing an African-American man, his back turned to the viewer, is lit by hundreds of lightbulbs, but he remains invisible. Because he is referring to invented works of art, in addition to staging and directing, Wall must manipulate photography. In A Sudden Gust of Wind, Wall uses the computer to throw white sheets of paper into the stiff breeze, combining postmodern technology with the past. Like most Postmodern artists, Postmodern photographers re-explore the past and revisit history. As Wall said in 2010:

In the nineteenth century, with Manet and the others, there was such a high level of pictorial invention, such an interesting take on the now. They created something that is still very important to anyone concerned with pictures, and so, I’m keeping in touch with that, but not in an exclusive way, not as a model for my own work. My work derives from photography also, that is, photography as photography, and from other art forms. But it also comes from things that I’m experiencing directly. So, I’m trying to use the nineteenth century, in a way, as one of the frames of reference for a pictorial practice. We could say that, in many ways, we are still experiencing the nineteenth century in art.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

[email protected]