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William Bell

Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona (Wheeler Survey)
albumen print
10 3/4 x 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

This photograph of an apparently isolated boulder balanced at the edge of a desert was taken for the information it might reveal to the trained eyes of an engineer or a scientist. Bell was the official photographer on the survey expedition commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers and the War Department under Lieutenant George Wheeler in 1872. He produced many such dramatic images, often incorporating figures for scale.