Timothy O’Sullivan

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Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, “View Across the Top of the Falls,” 1874

This photograph taken by Timothy O’Sullivan is an such amazing shot. I think what amazes me most is the time period (1874) and just imagining him having to somehow travel there and bring his big camera with him to get the perfect shot is just unbelievable. It is very different after looking at so many paintings to look at this picture and be able to see that it truly is a place that exists, rather than a painting that could have been manipulated- this is the real deal. Actual natural beauty that was captured by a single man. I have been to Niagara Falls being from Buffalo, and standing under it seeing it hit the rocks with such force can really just make a person feel so small and weak! But there, I was surrounded by hundreds of tourists on a little boat wearing a tiny poncho. These places probably aren’t even comparable- this waterfall is in the middle of southern Idaho, and stands about 50 feet higher than Niagara Falls (today at least). Nowadays, these falls are even considered the “Niagara of the West”. About a decade before this picture was taken, the Shoshone people were actually expelled from the river and the falls out onto reservations by the Europeans. Traveling there after it became uninhabited must have made the experience feel even more expansive than it already was. The angle of this picture helps the viewer feel that much more- rather than just taking a picture of the falls and the water, O’Sullivan included the landscape of the surrounding river, which looks like mostly gigantic rock formations and a small amount of shrubbery. I can only imagine seeing these falls all alone out in the middle of such vast grandeur would be an unforgettable experience. Really incredible photograph!

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