Img. Thomas M. Easterly, Big Mound during Destruction, the Last of the Big Mound, 1869, daguerreotype, Missouri Historical Society, Saint Louis, Thomas Easterly Daguerreotype Collection
The first exhibition to focus exclusively on photographs made in the eastern half of the United States during the 19th century, East of the Mississippi showcases some 175 works — from daguerreotypes and stereographs to albumen prints and cyanotypes — as well as several photographers whose efforts have often gone unheralded. Celebrating natural wonders such as Niagara Falls and the White Mountains, as well as capturing a cultural landscape fundamentally altered by industrialization, the Civil War, and tourism, these photographs not only helped shape America’s national identity but also played a role in the emergence of environmentalism.
Photographers often sought out scenes of unaltered beauty in the eastern half of the country, but were equally fascinated by the built environment in and around cities, from Boston and Philadelphia to New Orleans. Coupling the documentary with the aesthetic, they trained their cameras on the transformations wrought by the Civil War and by new enterprises including tourism and industrialization, particularly the advent of the railroad. Initially celebrating the march of progress, eastern photographers later addressed the destruction of the wilderness and the need for its preservation. Balancing nature and culture, the photographs on display present a vision of a nation filled with natural wonders, brimming with innovation, and undergoing rapid yet unstoppable change.
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art.
National Gallery of Art: March 12 – July 16, 2017 West Building, Ground Floor, Inner Tier
New Orleans Museum of Art: October 5, 2017–January 7, 2018