Contact: Library of Congress, Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Contact: Yale University Press, Paige Jokl (203) 432-0964

January 13, 2010

Timothy H. O'Sullivan's Frontier Photographs Subject of New Publication, Exhibition

The image of the untamed American West remains an enduring touchstone of U.S. culture. Few photographers have captured more compelling images of the frontier than Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882), whose work is the subject of a new publication titled "Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan."

Published jointly by the Library of Congress in association with Yale University Press and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, "Framing the West," is the companion catalog to a new Smithsonian exhibition of the same name. The volume includes essays by Toby Jurovics, the exhibition curator, who is the curator of photography at the American Art Museum; Carol Johnson, curator of photography at the Library of Congress; Glenn Willumson, associate professor at the University of Florida; and Will Stapp, an independent scholar.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan is considered one of the most important photographers of America's untrammeled Western wilderness. In the 19th century, O'Sullivan -- carrying a heavy, large-format camera and boxes of glass-plate negatives that were developed in the field -- was able to create a large and distinguished body of work. The Library of Congress holds more than 900 O'Sullivan images in its Prints and Photographs Division.

The first major publication on O'Sullivan in more than 30 years, "Framing the West" offers a formal interpretation of O'Sullivan's work and assesses his influence in the field of photography. The book features previously unpublished and rarely seen images and serves as a field guide for O'Sullivan's original prints, presenting them for the first time in the order of their production.

"Framing the West," a 272-page hardback book with 151 images, is available for $60 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (www.loc.gov/shop/) or by calling (888) 682-3557. It is also available in bookstores nationwide and online.

Ninety-three items from the Library's collection will be included among the 120 items displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's major exhibition "Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan" from Friday, Feb. 12, to Saturday, May 9, at the American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. Items on display include photographs and stereographs (twin images that appear three-dimensional through a stereoscope viewer), including a notable group of geological survey photographs that rarely have been on public display since they were acquired by the Library of Congress in 1876.

O'Sullivan began his photography career as an apprentice to Mathew Brady. He joined Alexander Gardner when Gardner opened a branch of the Brady studio in Washington, D.C., and photographed American Civil war battlefields. When Gardner opened his own studio in 1863, O'Sullivan followed. Forty-four of O'Sullivan's photographs were included in Gardner's landmark album "Photographic Sketch Book of the War," the first published collection of Civil War photographs and a highlight of the Library's collection in the Prints and Photographs Division.

O'Sullivan's experience photographing in the field earned him a position as photographer for the first governmental survey of the American West following the Civil War, the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, which was directed by Clarence King from 1867 to 1872. He also served as photographer for the U.S. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, directed by George Wheeler from 1871 to 1874.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov. Many of the Library's rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 10-008
01/13/10
ISSN 0731-3527

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