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Andrew Joseph Russell

Sphinx of the Valley, from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views across the Continent taken along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad West from Omaha, Nebraska by A.J. Russell, Volume I
albumen print
9 1/8 x 12 3/8 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

Andrew Joseph Russell was hired to photograph the westward advancement of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1865. Taken somewhere west of Omaha, Nebraska, this image of a man tucked under a giant rock ledge suggests the magnitude of the Western landscape. Russell recorded natural monuments in much the same way European photographers framed monuments like the Egyptian “sphinx.”