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James Swensen: ’As Grand and Unusual Sights as The Heart Could Desire’: An Exploration of John Wesley Powell’s Photographers
September 27 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
In 1871 John Wesley Powell returned to the Colorado Plateau. Two years earlier he and his intrepid crew made one of the most-daring expeditions in American history when they journeyed down the Green and Colorado Rivers, mostly sight-unseen. When he returned he came with a different purpose. The region was no longer the great unknown, but its sublime landscapes demanded extensive study and representation. A crucial tool in this endeavor was photography. Powell employed three photographers throughout his explorations of the Southwest. The first was E.O. Beaman, who was followed by James Fennemore, and lastly, the oar-man turned photographer, John Hillers, who become one of the most important photographers of the American West. This presentation explores the work and careers of Powell’s photographers along the Colorado. It will, moreover, investigate their activities within the complicated dynamics of the expedition as well as they ways they attempted to capture and comprehend one of the most dramatic places on earth.
James R. Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. His research interests include the art and photography of the American West. He is the author of several articles and two books including In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration (University of Utah Press). He is the recipient of the Butler Young Scholar Award from the Charles Redd Center for Western American Studies and the LeRoy Axland Best Utah History Article Award.