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
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Where to pay homage to the cutest local celebrities you'll ever stalk.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
For air travelers who like to gripe about being cramped in economy, here comes another warning that they've never had it so good.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Cream cakes from the Ruszwurm bakery in Budapest, Hungary
Proving they're what's really important, the world's best pastry shops have survived survived sieges, revolutions and World War II.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Lois Pryce ignored naysayers and traveled 3,000 miles via motorcycle to discover the real Iran.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0320 GMT (1120 HKT)
Built at a cost of $442.2 million, Universal Studios Japan hopes its new Potter attraction will bring in $55 billion over 10 years.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
A scene in Marrakech
The gateway to Morocco's Atlas Mountains is becoming a photographer's paradise -- but capturing it on camera isn't easy.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
Cathay Pacific was pronounced the world's best airliner of the year at the industry's leading awards ceremony in Farnborough on Tuesday.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Britain has stolen a march in the space race with plans for the world's first spaceport outside the U.S.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
In the hunt for the world's best amusement park, the people have spoken -- and it seems the people like mixing with creatures who eat a lot of fish.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
An Hellenic Seaplanes aircraft
Seaplane network set to open up far-flung destinations to affordable jet-setting tours.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
A man who took a dangerous selfie during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, with the half-ton beasts right behind him, is still on the run -- but this time from the police.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Its cramped rooms and retro lobby are dated, but its charm and devotion to customers are worth preserving.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0553 GMT (1353 HKT)
A young girl sits on a bench decorated with an image of Paddington Bear.
As part of a scheme to encourage reading, 50 benches designed in the style of popular novels or kids' stories have been scattered around London.
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
To all the locals who have been hoarding the following beaches, please forgive us.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Jason Hullinger, a computer security architect in Los Angeles, went to Joshua Tree National Park in December to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
CNN iReporters from across the globe share their incredible images of the skies above us.
ADVERTISEMENT