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William Lyman Underwood

Born:
Belmont, Massachusetts 1864

Died:
Belmont, Massachusetts 1929

Active in:

  • Boston, Massachusetts

Biography

William Lyman Underwood and his brother Loring (1874–1930) were early leaders in nineteenth-century nature photography. Loring, trained as a horticulturist, focused on the cultivated landscapes of parks and estate gardens, while William preferred the wilderness of northeastern America. A renowned public speaker, William gave more than forty lectures a year about his experiences as "a camera hunter," accompanied by a lantern slide show of his photographs. This run-of-the-century entertainment instructed audiences about an environment that Underwood feared was vanishing.

In 1927 Underwood published Wilderness Adventures, a book that describes his experiences with his Passamaquoddy Indian guide, Joe Mell. Invoking the spirit of Thoreau and Emerson, whose New England had already suffered the effects of industrial progress, Underwood described Mell's skills and knowledge as an outdoorsman, testifying to the still vital character of the American wilderness experience.

Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)