The American West, 150 Years Ago

In the 1860s and 70s, photographer Timothy O'Sullivan created some of the best-known images in American History. After covering the U.S. Civil War, (many of his photos appear in this earlier series), 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 composed 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.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Christian Charisius / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 4/23-4/29

    A shepherd pulls a lamb into the sea in Gaza City, President Obama meets Prince George in London, the aftermath of Ecuador’s earthquake, and much more.

  • 2016 Audubon Photography Awards

    Spectacular wildlife photography: the winners and runners-up from the 2016 Audubon Photography Awards competition.

  • U.S. National Archives

    Bamboo Bombers and Stone Tanks—Japanese Decoys Used in World War II

    While researching World War II images at the U.S. National Archives, I came across several photos I had not seen before, of Japanese dummy aircrafts made of bamboo and wood planking.

  • Bruno Kelly / Reuters

    Cracking Down on Illegal Gold Mining in the Amazon

    The Reuters photographer Bruno Kelly recently traveled deep into the Amazon rainforest, accompanying agents of Brazil’s environmental agency into the Yanomami territory to combat rampant illegal gold mining.

Join the Discussion