Window on the West

The Frontier Photography of William Henry Jackson

Book Description

William Hen­ry Jack­son’s pho­tographs pro­vid­ed the first glimpse of the Amer­i­can fron­tier to most Amer­i­cans. Arriv­ing west only one month after the com­ple­tion of the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road, he cap­tured the pow­er and grandeur of such places as Yel­low­stone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite in extra­or­di­nary pho­tographs. His vast body of work also doc­u­ments the rapid trans­for­ma­tion of the West as immi­grants poured in, boom­towns, sprang up overnight, great herds of buf­fa­lo were slaugh­tered, and Amer­i­can Indi­ans suf­fered dev­as­tat­ing defeats.

In this fas­ci­nat­ing book, Lau­rie Lawlor tells par­al­lel sto­ries of the set­tling of the west­ern Unit­ed States and the wan­der­ings of a man who cap­tured much of that his­to­ry in sin­gu­lar and beau­ti­ful pho­tographs. Lawlor includes forty of Jack­son’s pho­tographs as illus­tra­tions for her nar­ra­tive. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, time­line, glos­sary, and index.

Reviews and Comments

“Jack­son’s images are bal­anced by Lawlor’s elo­quent text, which folds in details about every­thing from the won­der of Yel­low­stone’s gey­sers to the debase­ment of the Native Amer­i­cans. This is much more than a look at ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy; it’s a mem­o­rable, bit­ter­sweet valen­tine to the Old West.” (Book­list)

“With clear and engag­ing prose, [Lawlor] cov­ers top­ics as diverse as indus­tri­al­iza­tion, the Gild­ed Age, rail­road devel­op­ments, pho­to­graph­ic tech­niques, racial prej­u­dice, and the decline of the Amer­i­can Indi­an lifestyle. … Lawlor suc­cess­ful­ly brings the era to life with­in the frame­work of this remark­able career.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“… chang­ing world in which [Jack­son] oper­at­ed is abun­dant­ly explored … large and small pho­tographs … are impres­sive. The thought­ful overview is an engag­ing intro­duc­to­ry his­to­ry that will invite fur­ther explo­ration. Schol­ar­ly appendages.” (The Horn Book)

A Note from Laurie

I decid­ed to write about William Hen­ry Jack­son after I saw an exhi­bi­tion of his pho­tographs at near­by North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. Hav­ing spent many sum­mers in the West, I felt home­sick as I looked at the exhibit’s hun­dred-year-old pho­tographs. While research­ing Jack­son over the next sev­er­al years, I became fas­ci­nat­ed by him and by the remark­able impact his pho­tographs had on how Amer­i­cans of the time viewed the West.

Window on the West

writ­ten by Lau­rie Lawlor
Hol­i­day House, 1999

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