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Historic Photographers - Page 2

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Tombstone, Arizona, Allen Street, 1882  


Camillus Sydney "Buck” Fly (18??-1901) - Best known for his photography of the Geronimo's surrender in 1886, Fly was living and working in Tombstone during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He also served as the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona for two years. See Full Article HERE.


Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) - A Scottish born photographer, he moved to the United States in 1856 where he developed his profession. He is best known for his photographs of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, and the execution of the conspirators to Lincoln's assassination.


Freighting in the Black Hills, South DakotaJohn C. H. Grabill - An American photographer, he is known for his photographs taken in South Dakota and Wyoming in the late 19th century. Nothing is known about is early life or how he acquired his photography skills, but he was born to David Graybill, originally from Virginia, and Catherine Kees, of Ohio. Colorado, where he was working with a mining partner named Nelson Wanamaker. The pair were known to have located three contiguous mining claims, at Mt. Blanco, Mt. Crystal, and Mt. Antero, which was the site of the first discovery of Aquamarine, Colorado's official gemstone. In 1882, a Buena Vista Map also shows he was operating out of a building there, which was called the "Mining Exchange Office."


However, within a few years he had moved to Sturgis, South Dakota, where he opened a photographic studio in Sturgis in 1886 and soon became the official photographer of the Black Hills and Fort Pierre Railroad and the Home Stake Mining Company. More studios were also established in Hot Springs, Lead and Deadwood. Between 1887 and 1892, he sent 188 photographs of railroads, mining, Native Americans, and settlers' life in the region to the Library of Congress for copyright protection.


Grabill's remarkably well-crafted, sepia-toned images captured the forces of western settlement in South Dakota and Wyoming, leaving a visual record of railroad development, coaches and wagons, mining, smeltering and milling, freighting, emerging cities and towns, cattle roundups and branding, sheepherding, prospecting, hunting, and Chinese immigrants, as well as landscapes. A number of the images portray the Lakota Sioux living on or near the Cheyenne River and the Pine Ridge reservations and their contact with U.S. military and government agents, and with William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Some of the photographs were taken only days after the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee near Pine Ridge. From 1891 to 1894 he was operating a studio in Chicago Illinois . Nothing is known of his life beyond this time.  


Herman Heyn (1866-1949) - An important portrait photographer in Omaha, Nebraska, from the 1880s through the 1920s, he is nationally noted for more than 500 images of Native Americans, mostly Sioux.


Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) - A sociologist and photographer, he used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws. See Full Article HERE.


William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) - A painter, photographer, and explorer, Jackson is known as the first person to photograph the wonders of Yellowstone and other places in the American West, as well as documenting the Civil War in a number of sketches. He also became a partner in the Detroit Publishing Company , who utilized thousands of his images in the first color postcards and prints to be published in America. See Full Article HERE.




Frances "Fannie" Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) - One of the earliest American female photographers and photojournalists.

Migrant Mother in Southern California

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) - A documentary photographer and photojournalist, Lange is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. See Full Article HERE.

Russell Lee (1903-1986) - Photographer and photojournalist who became a member of the team of photographers assembled for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentation project.


Born in Ottawa, Illinois on July 21, 1903, Lee originally trained as a chemical engineer when he grew up. However, in the fall of 1936 became a member of the team of photographers assembled under Roy Stryker for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration documentation project. Lee is responsible for some of the iconic images produced by the FSA, including photographic studies of San Augustine, Texas in 1939, and Pie Town, New Mexico in 1940. After the FSA was defunded in 1943, and after his own service in the Air Corps during World War II, Lee continued to work under Roy Stryker, producing public relations photographs for Standard Oil of New Jersey.


Some 80,000 of those photographs have been donated by Exxon Corporation to the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Lee moved to Austin, Texas in 1947 and became the first instructor of photography at the University of Texas in 1965. He died in Austin, Texas on August 28, 1986. An important collection of his work is at the Wittliff collections, Texas State University.


Timothy H. O'SullivanTimothy H. O'Sullivan (1840?-1882) - An American photographer , O'Sullivan was best known for his photographs taken during the Civil War and in the American West. Born in New York City in about 1840, O'Sullivan began working as an apprentice to  famed Mathew Brady when just a teenager. When the Civil War began in early 1861, he joined the war effort and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Union Army. Over the next year, he fought in Beaufort, Port Royal, and Fort Walker in South Carolina; and Fort Pulaski, Georgia.


After being honorably discharged, he joined Brady's team in photographing the Civil War . However, he soon left Brady to photograph Civil War battlefields on his own. In July 1862, O'Sullivan followed the Major General John Pope's Northern Virginia Campaign. He soon joined up with Alexander Gardner, who had also worked for Matthew Brady, but, quit in late 1862, probably in part because of Brady's practice of attributing his employees' work as "Photographed by Brady."


In July, 1863, O'Sullivan created his most famous photograph, "The Harvest of Death," depicting dead soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1864, following General Ulysses S. Grant's trail, he photographed the Siege of Petersburg before briefly heading to North Carolina to document the siege of Fort Fisher. That brought him to the Appomattox Court House, the site of Robert E. Lee's surrender in April, 1865. After the Civil War , Alexander Gardner published a two-volume work, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War, in 1866, which included 44 of O'Sullivan's photographs.

O'Sullivan's experience photographing in the field earned him a position as the official photographer for the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel led by Clarence King. From 1867 to 1869, he followed the first governmental survey of the American West. The expedition began at Virginia City, Nevada, where he photographed the mines, and worked eastward. His job was to photograph the West to attract settlers. O'Sullivan's images were among the first to record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and pueblo villages of the Southwest.


In 1870 he joined a survey team in Panama to survey for a canal across the isthmus. From 1871 to 1874 he returned to the southwestern United States to join Lieutenant George M. Wheeler's survey west of the One Hundredth Meridian. He faced starvation on the Colorado River when some of expedition's boats capsized. Few of the 300 negatives he took survived the trip back East. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 1874 and made prints for the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1880, he was made chief photographer for the United States Treasury. However, the position would be brief as he died at Staten Island, New York on January 14, 1882 of tuberculosis at the age of 41.


Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (1912-2006) - A groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director, Parks is best remembered for his photo essays for Life Magazine.


Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990) - A noted photographer who worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression documenting poverty and deprivation.


ArthurRothstein, PhotographerArthur Rothstein (1915-1985) - An American photographer . Rothstein is recognized as one of America’s premier photojournalists


Andrew Joseph Russell (1830-1902) - A 19th-century American photographer of the Civil War
and Union Pacific Railroad. Russell was born in New Hampshire in 1829, but was raised in New York City. He began his training as a painter before Civil War
. There he was assigned to the United States Military Railroad Construction Corps, in part because his family had a history in canal and railroad construction. In that role he photographed primarily transportation subjects for the Union, but was responsible for a few photographs of more historical and graphical interest, which were later sold to and distributed by the Mathew Brady Studios. One more famous photo was "Confederate dead Behind the Stone Wall" after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia which occurred in May 1863. After the end of the Civil War
, Russell was commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad to take photographs of the eastern portion of the building of the as the route moved west from Nebraska toward Promontory Point in Utah. He is most famous for his "Joining of the Rails" image of the laying of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah, but also took a number of photographs of the American West. After 1870 Russell returned to New York where he became the world's first photojournalist working for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper until the early 1890's.


Ben Shahn (1898-1969) - A Lithuanian-born American photographer , Shahn is  best known for his works of social realism, his left-wing political views, and his series of lectures.

Erwin E. Smith, cowboy photographer, 1908Erwin E. Smith (1886-1947) - Often referred to as "one of the greatest photographers of cowboy life,” Smith created engaging and action-filled images of cowboys and ranch life that have come to symbolize the universal western cowboy type. See Full Article HERE.

William Eugene Smith (1918-1978) - An American photojournalist known for his refusal to compromise professional standards and his brutally vivid World War II photographs.

Roy Emerson Stryker (1893-1975) - An American economist, government official, and photographer , Styker is most famous for heading the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the launching the documentary photography movement of the FSA.


John Vachon - John F. Vachon (1914-1975) - Vachon worked as a filing clerk for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) before he was recruited to join a small group of photographer s, who were employed to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America.




Compiled & edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October, 2015.



Yosemite Valley by William Henry Jackson

Yosemite Valley, California, photo by  William Henry Jackson, published

 and colorized by the Detroit Publishing Co., 1898.

Photo prints and downloads available HERE!


Cowboys on fence photo art

Cowboys on a fence. Original photo by Russell Lee

 in 1939. Vintage photo restored by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Photo prints and downloads available HERE!



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