O’Sullivan took this while on a government expedition analyzing the future path of the transcontinental railroad.
This noontime scene conveys a desolate place discovered by a lonely explorer. The artist chose a vantage point and framing that blocked the horizon and showed a single wagon—the former Civil War ambulance that he converted into a portable darkroom—and only two sets of footprints. However, over the previous 25 years, more than 165,000 people had passed near here on their way to California.
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