How the Wild West REALLY looked by Timothy O'Sullivan

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Sirius Glass, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  2. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Amazing. I take it that I am not the only one to see faces in a number of the rock formations?

    pentaxuser
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I see rocks that think that they are people, but they are really only rocks.
     
  4. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Everytime I see that Santa Fe shot it blows my mind...
     
  5. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I enjoyed those! Thanks!

    Jeff
     
  6. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    very nice, thanks for sharing............
     
  7. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    How ironic that you should post a link to these. That 14th photograph, the one showing the silver miner with his pickaxe inside the mine, is the exact picture that was the inspiration for this photograph I posted for fun a couple of weeks ago as I was going through old negatives.

    Of course, we had it a bit easier than Mr. O'Sullivan with Coleman gas lanterns, a Nikon F2 with Vivitar 292 electronic flash, and Tri-X. Both my field partner that day and I were well aware of Mr. O'Sullivan's legacy. We were also intimately aware of the history of the Gold Hill/Virginia City Comstock Lode mining district and era.

    Interestingly, at the time my photo was made we had an opportunity to visit and tour the Savage Mine in Virginia City. It was still being worked at the same 900-foot level mentioned in the caption. This must have been above the water table level as defined by the Sutro Tunnel drainage, since I don't believe they were pumping any longer.

    Unfortunately, our schedules didn't work out, so we missed that chance. I always regretted that, as the Savage Mine was the last of the original Virginia City mining operations still in business.

    [Edit: If anyone is interested in reading a wonderful historical account of the Comstock Lode bonanza and those involved with it, take a look at the book Comstock Mining and Miners by Eliot Lord, first published in 1883. It's the best there is on the topic and reads a little bit like an antique Indiana Jones adventure. Great stuff.]

    Ken
     
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  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It's interesting that Ansel Adams was left out of the major International Art of Photography exhibition 1989 to celebrate 150 years of Photography because it was deemed he brought nothing new to photography essentially shooting in the footsteps of photographers like Timothy O'Sullivan.

    Ian
     
  9. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Well, most have seen them before, but I'm guessing the Daily Mail readership haven't. Which is good.
    And is somebody going to write in and explain that they weren't tinted sepia? :smile:

    And also, just to show how far photography has come - http://wefolk.s3.amazonaws.com/images/photographs/enlargements/5419.jpg?1333362237
    A lot of contemporary colour work is simply O'Sullivan pastiche. This work by Kander is probably intentionally so and, of course, quite brilliant. But modern large format photographers have soooooo much to owe to O'Sullivan for their sense of composition specifically, more so than Adams.
     
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  10. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    Always interesting to see after-the-fact discussions on the "art" involved.

    O'Sullivan was, in the words from the above Daily Mail link, an "Irish tough guy" who was simply hired to provide factual documentation for the US Government's Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel project, from western Nevada to eastern Wyoming. The primary goal was to attract new settlement to the American West. And as we all know, that goal was acheived.

    While he may have been adept at deciding where to set down a tripod—and the resulting photographs are indeed fascinating documents—I'm not so sure the "artiness" of his task was uppermost in his mind at the time. These were hardy men on a very difficult mission. And no aspect of it more difficult than his, given the state of photographic technology at that time. If anything, his work is closer to the US Government's Depression era FSA project than to anything AA did years later.

    It's not always about High Art.

    Ken
     
  11. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    That's exactly what makes it work, IMHO. As a lifelong American West denizen and an inveterate desert rat, I recognize O'Sullivan's landscapes as "home" in a way that's missing in much of the more "artified" work of photographers like AA. O'Sullivan's West is dry, dirty, and tough; so is the one I know. I recognize the big Grand Landscapes are there, of course, but to my eye the f/64 approach romanticizes them and loses some reality.

    Looking at those images makes me want to shove off from work and head out to the Salton Sea with a camera.

    -NT
     
  12. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    Thanks really enjoyed them.
     
  13. batwister

    batwister Member

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    It's funny how Europeans want to visit the American west after watching spaghetti westerns - filmed in Spain.
     
  14. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Agreed, %100. I for a long time search out the AA look, then realized it doesn't reflect what is real and moving for me here in the West. I like no clouds in the skies sometimes, because often times, that's how it looks. Bleak, dry, nada.

    Now I need to go crawl under a rock again.
     
  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed it. Those old pics always have really light skys because of the blue sensitivity of old plates.
     
  16. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    You can see it in the skin tones, too. I'm pretty sure the Paiute and Navajo subjects weren't nearly as dark-skinned as they appear.

    -NT