The American West, 150 Years Ago

In Focus has posted an amazing collection of photographs of the American west as it was in the 1860s and 70s. The photo set comes from photographer Timothy O’Sullivan, just after he finished photographing the Civil War.

O’Sullivan joined a number of expeditions organized by the federal government to help document the new frontiers in the American West. The teams were comprised of soldiers, scientists, artists, and photographers, and tasked with discovering the best ways to take advantage of the region’s untapped natural resources. O’Sullivan brought an amazing eye and work ethic, composing photographs that evoked the vastness of the West. He also documented the Native American population as well as the pioneers who were already altering the landscape. Above all, O’Sullivan captured — for the first time on film — the natural beauty of the American West in a way that would later influence Ansel Adams and thousands more photographers to come.

Amazing. Even to this day, the over-stretched beauty of the American west boggles the mind. It’s uncomprehensible.

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