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William Bell

Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South (Wheeler Survey)
albumen print
10 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

From an awkward position under a massive overhang, Bell maneuvered his unwieldy camera to capture the dramatic play of light and shadow on the opposite cliff’s limestone walls. Bell made this photograph while he was working on Lieutenant George Wheeler’s Geographical Explorations and Surveys west of the hundredth meridian. He had resigned his post as head of the photographic department in Washington, D.C.’s Army Medical Museum in 1872 to become Wheeler’s official photographer.