Diane Waggoner, Curator of 19th-Century Photographs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
When photography arrived in the United States in 1839, it first established itself in major cities in the East. Yet, with the exception of practitioners working during the Civil War, many eastern landscape photographers have gained limited recognition in comparison to photographers who ventured west and documented the settling of the frontier.
Photographs of the East, however, are not only visually arresting but also have a story to tell about national preoccupations. Created for multiple purposes, these images express a diverse set of aesthetic, moral, topographic, and instrumental concerns. They helped shape evolving mythologies of the American wilderness, revealed the impact of the Civil War on the physical landscape, and played an important role in both industrialization and environmental preservation.
This talk, based on the exhibition East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography, on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, March 12-July 16, 2017, will offer an overview of this vivid chapter of America’s photographic history.
Free with museum admission
IMAGE: Von’ Storch Breaker, Thomas H. Johnson, Scranton, Pennsylvania, c. 1863–1865, Albumen photographic print on letterpress mount, Gift of the estate of J. Tabor Loree, Delaware and Hudson Railroad Collection, JD 82-09