Spanning the archive and the museum : Timothy O'Sullivan's King Survey photographs
thesisposted on 08.06.2021, 08:18 by Emily M Shutt
Originally created as documents of the government surveys in the 1860s-1870s, Timothy O'Sullivan's photographs were rediscovered in the mid-twentieth century by museum curators, artists and scholars, many of whom argued for O'Sullivan's artistic genius, uniqueness and his proto-modernist compositions. His early champions were the artist Ansel Adams and curator Beaumont Newhall, but others argued for the aesthetic importance of his work at the end of the century, including scholars Joel Snyder, Robin Kelsey, and Museum of Modern Art curator Peter Galassi. In the early 1980s, Rosalind Krauss argued against the notion that O'Sullivan should be included in the photographic art canon in her 1982 article, "Photography's Discursive Spaces: Landscape/View" in Art Journal. This thesis focuses on the changing reception and the functions of O'Sullivan's photographs by an examination of different examples of one photograph, O'Sullivan's "Sioux Hot Springs", held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York), the National Archives Still Picture Unit (College Park, Maryland), and the George Eastman House (Rochester, New York).