Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840–1882)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 22.9 x 29 cm (9 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation Gift, 2005
Not on view
The homeland of the Shoshoni covered large tracts of the Great Basin--portions of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah. O'Sullivan photographed in their territory in 1867-69 and 1872 with Clarence King, and in 1871 with Lieutenant George Wheeler. Many of the men in the photograph are wearing U. S. Army hats and shirts, paraphernalia probably acquired through barter at the Army's trading posts. When O'Sullivan made the picture, the delicate ecology of the Shoshoni's food sources (buffalo, small game, roots, berries, and grass seed) had been virtually destroyed over the preceding thirty years by the heedless practices of emigrant white settlers. The resulting degradation and the marauding, murderous retaliation of the Shoshoni and associated tribes became known as the "Indian question," which the U.S. government attempted to resolve through legislation, the establishment of reservations, and, on occasion, slaughter. As an exploratory visitor rather than an exploitative settler, O'Sullivan met little hostility from Native Americans. If some of his subjects were reluctant to pose for the "shadow-catcher," the thirteen Shoshoni depicted here seem resolute and patient. Expressed as a pyramid, the group's corporate solidarity appears as permanent as an ancient cairn, in contrast to the American and expeditionary flags, tents, and distant plain which, through the photographer's choice, are rendered as flat and insubstantial as his own shadow.
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on print, verso BC: "Shoshoni"
Alfred Rudolph Waud; [Rinhart Galleries, New York]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, October 8, 1976
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Beyond the Edges: An Insider's Look at Early Photographs," October 9, 1998–February 14, 1999.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 30," September 24, 2001–January 20, 2002.
Horan, James E. Jr. Mr. Timothy O'Sullivan, America's forgotten photographer : the life and work of the brilliant photographer whose camera recorded the American scene from the battlefields of the Civil War to the frontiers of the West. New York: Bonanza Books, 1966. p. 240.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 111.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. pl. 117.