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“Taking the High Ground: Tough Men and Tough Places in 19th Century Landscape Photography” with Dr. James Swensen



Join Dr. James Swensen at the Museum for an exhibition-adjacent talk on 19th-century landscape photography.

In one of his most famous photographs William Henry Jackson, a leading nineteenth-century photographer of the American West, crouches under a make-shift dark room proofing a newly created glass-plate negative. Difficult under normal conditions, Jackson’s process is even more remarkable when considering the fact that he is performing his work over a rocky precipice on a high, forlorn peak somewhere in the Grand Teton Range. Rather than an anomaly, however, Jackson’s image is emblematic of the work of several key photographers in the United States and Europe who emphasized their manly deeds as part of their work. Indeed, the exploration of the terra incognita of the American West was akin to plunging into the darkest jungle, scaling seemingly insurmountable alpine peaks, or exploring Europe’s wildest places. Taking the High Ground explores the ways in which the photographs of and experiences in rugged and sublime landscapes from the rugged fjords of Norway to the bare-rock landscapes of the arid West reconfirmed and perpetuated the notion of masculine identity.


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    Dr. James Swensen

    James Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 2009.



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