Art A Harvest of Death. Gettysburg, July 1863. Timothy O'Sullivan. (War Dept.)
Exact Date Shot Unknown
NARA FILE #: 165-SB-36
WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #:  253

Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Thomas Ritchie

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Program explores work of western photographer O’Sullivan

This week, photo and history buffs can take a journey through American history in the 1800s as seen through the lens of photographer.

One of the most iconic shutterbugs of western people, war and natural settings, O’Sullivan was a pioneer in the field of geophotography. His pictures are believed to be among the first to record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and pueblo villages of the Southwest. His work captured brutal images of war, too, including his most famous photograph, “The Harvest of Death,” depicting dead soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg (above).

O’Sullivan was born in 1840, and grew up in New York City. He roamed the west working as a U.S. government expedition photographer, and through his travels, he surveyed the land, photographed its beauty and documented its horrors.

“His pictures are part of the American people, whether they know it or not,” Terry Etherton, a Arizona O’Sullivan dealer told the Tucson Weekly in an article about O’Sullivan’s life. “They’re in every history book.” And thanks to Ken Burns, who used these images extensively in his TV series on the war, “even people who don’t know anything about O’Sullivan know his Civil War photos.”

His subject matter and style took a different path than previous work, and involved taking pictures of nature as an untamed, pre-industrialized land without the use of landscape painting conventions.

The program, “Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian: The Western Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan” will be presented by Toby Jurovics, Chief Curator and Holland Curator of American Art at the Josyln Art Museum at 6:30 PM in the Abbott Lecture Hall.

This program is free and open to the public.

This program is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and held in conjunction with Westward O, the 2015-16 city-wide celebration of the West.

Photo: This image is available from the United States Library of Congress.

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