Sep 2, 2004

Looking South into the Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Sheavwitz

Looking South into the Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Sheavwitz


William H. Bell

(American, 1830–1910)

Albumen print from wet collodion negative

Image: 27.5 x 20.3 cm (10 13/16 x 8 in.); Mounted: 50 x 39.4 cm (19 11/16 x 15 1/2 in.); Matted: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2002.48



From 1871 to 1873, General George M. Wheeler led the government-sponsored survey of lands west of the 100th meridian. Philadelphian William Bell served as the new staff photographer for the expedition into Arizona. Bell used dry plates of his own manufacture instead of the popular wet collodion process, thus freeing himself from the necessity of having a darkroom nearby whenever he wanted to expose a negative. The photographer's style was to create dramatic compositions emphasizing verticality. In this surprising juxtaposition of scale and perspective, he captured the sensation experienced by a spectator gazing down into a vast canyon below. Bell carefully included jutting rocks in the foreground to anchor the plunging perspective view down to the river. Glaring contrasts of light and shadow enrich the composition, focusing on the powerful forces of nature that created this rugged landscape.

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