Skip to main content

Greatest photos of the American West

February 26, 2013 -- Updated 0418 GMT (1218 HKT)
The "Greatest Photographs of the American West" exhibit is currently touring the United States. Here, workers in Nebraska halt haying to watch as afternoon thunderheads fill the sky. The "Greatest Photographs of the American West" exhibit is currently touring the United States. Here, workers in Nebraska halt haying to watch as afternoon thunderheads fill the sky.
HIDE CAPTION
Sand Hills, Nebraska, 2004
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1999
Colorado River, Arizona, 2010
Mountain City, Nevada
Powder River, Wyoming, 2005
Yellowstone National Park, 2008
Antelope Canyon, Arizona, 2007
Big Rodeo, Nebraska, 1995
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1988
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1938
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • From National Geographic archives, "American West" photo exhibit is on display around the United States
  • Exhibit includes 185 photos from 1800s to present
  • Stunning collection is curated by James McNutt of the National Museum of Wildlife Art
  • Award-winning companion book includes 75 images

(CNN) -- When discussing his favorite images from the "Greatest Photographs of the American West" traveling photography exhibit, National Museum of Wildlife Art president James McNutt, who curated the exhibit, starts with the oldest: William Henry Jackson's "Mountain of the Holy Cross."

Taken in Colorado on August 24, 1873, the photograph would become as legendary as the mountain itself -- not for the effort it took to get the picture, but for what it signified to a country healing from the Civil War and pushing ever westward.

Hauling hundreds of pounds of photo equipment up to a vantage point on an opposite ridge to capture snow-filled crevasses that created a perfect vertical cross on the mountain face, Jackson produced an image that, according to McNutt's introduction in the exhibit's companion book, came to symbolize "the union of America, Nature and God that fulfilled a romantic destiny."

Jackson's famous shot became one of the country's favorite photographs of the 19th century and effectively introduced photography in the West.

It's just one of the thousands McNutt and his curatorial team of Rich Clarkson, Adam Harris and Kate Brainerd considered from the National Geographic archives when putting together a landmark exhibition that's currently on display at select museums around the country (see below).

The final cut -- winnowed to 185 images for the show and 75 for the award-winning book -- shows the West's myriad faces thematically grouped into Legends, Encounters, Boundaries and Visions, corralling into categories an epic visual record of almost a century and a half of exploration of the American West with the camera.

There are cowboys and debutantes, Northern spotted owls and bison, cityscapes and pueblos, mesas and dams, gathering storms and controlled burns.

From early documentary efforts like Edward S. Curtis' celebrated North American Indian portraits to David Alan Harvey's contemporary impressions of modern Native life, from the pristine glories of awe-inspiring landscapes to the gritty exploitation of the region's resource wealth, McNutt's opus is both a loving gaze at the magnificence that attracts so many to the West, and an unblinking eye on the pressing challenges of keeping the romance alive.

"Greatest Photographs of the American West" 2013 exhibition dates

Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, Ga.; through March 10

Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyo.; through August 11

National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyo.; through August 11

Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, N.Y.; through September 15

At the end of summer, the exhibition begins traveling again.

For more information visit www.photographsofthewest.org.

To see the exhibition online visit www.photographsofhewest.org/exhibit.

All "Greatest Photographs of the American West" images above used courtesy of the National Geographic Society.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Whether filled with electric blue sulfur flames or hissing lava, these mega mountains offer incredible vistas
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
This once-a-year luxury cruise visits untouched islands and never-snorkeled reefs.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
Peter J. Goutiere was just shy of 30 years old when he piloted a Douglas C-47 from Miami to Kolkata, India.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Breathtaking scenery, championship design -- many of the courses dropped into the Canadian Rockies are among the most memorable in the world.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1306 GMT (2106 HKT)
A floating hippo in the Thames river designed by artist Florentijn Hofman
Why Florentijn Hofman is sending a giant beast into London's River Thames.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Scrap all those other bucket lists you've been compiling and start saving -- these memorable-for-a-lifetime trips don't come cheap, or easy.
September 6, 2014 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
A squabble over a device that limits how far a seat can recline has brought inflight etiquette into the spotlight again.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Thirst for victory competes with thirst for booze in event where competitors raise their glasses long before they cross the finish line.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0957 GMT (1757 HKT)
At these fun Los Angeles bars, the the drinks come with a chaser of kitsch.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
From dining next to massive predators to drinking atop a rock in the middle of the ocean, Africa boasts some of the most interesting places to eat.
September 7, 2014 -- Updated 0921 GMT (1721 HKT)
Just weeks after Bill HIllman, known as a veteran, expert bull runner, was badly gored in Pamplona, he's back at other smaller bull runnings in Spain, but walking with a cane.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Why not create your own, as many people have done. We uncover the parallel world of "micronationalism."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
A CNN producer experiences China's poor on-time flight record firsthand as his plane takes off eight hours late.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
New Yorker Kerrin Rousset's exploration of Swiss city aims to lure cocoa fans over to the dark side.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 0347 GMT (1147 HKT)
Some things are just better after dark. These experiences around the world prove it.
ADVERTISEMENT