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Timothy O'Sullivan: Pioneering Photographer

Timothy O’Sullivan was a pioneer in many senses of the word. He was one of the very early practitioners of wet plate photography – believed to have worked with Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. He was also an explorer. After photographing the Civil War, he headed out to document the great American West which, at the time, was a vast and unknown frontier.

O’Sullivan was the photographer on two key Western surveys: the King survey of the Fortieth Parallel, and the Wheeler survey. Through these two projects, photography became a new and integral part of science documentary.

Although he accumulated an enormous library of glass plates, O’Sullivan remained almost forgotten until around the 1970s, when there was a growing interest in landscape photography. To celebrate the exacting skill and legacy of this pioneering photographer, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress teamed up to present the first exhibition of his work in over thirty years, on display for a few more weeks at the Smithsonian.

Learn more in the Timothy H. O'Sullivan group on Flickr and, if you're in Washington, D.C., check out the exhibition.

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