October 20, 2013 – January 12, 2014
Photographs may serve as souvenirs of the places we have been, or they may show us places we have never seen. As Americans spread their settlements across the continent and into uncharted areas in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the relatively new medium of photography captured the landscapes, both near and far.
When explorers and government surveyors were discovering and documenting the American West in the nineteenth century, photography was a crucial tool. William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, and F. Jay Haynes were a few of the photographers who joined government expeditions in the early 1870s, charged with the task of documenting the newly encountered lands to the west through photographs.
In the 1920s, Ansel Adams rose to prominence as the great photographer of the American West. One of his most famous images, Monolith: Face of Half Dome, Yosemite, is featured in this exhibition.
Photographs were also vital in promoting tourism, and photographers captured the picturesque views and stunning vistas of Michigan’s lakeshore areas to draw in tourists. Beginning in 1895, the Detroit Publishing Company published photographs from around the world, including Michigan.
Ranging geographically from Michigan to California, these thirty photographs from the Museum’s collection provide a glimpse into America’s landscapes of decades past.
Iceberg Canyon, Colorado River, Looking Above (detail), c. 1871
albumen silver print
Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids
Gift of Frederick P Currier, 1986