Rutherfurd's formal training was in law, but throughout his life he remained devoted to the study of science and became one of the founders of the National Academy of Science. He was among the first to take photographs through a telescope, producing images of the moon and distant planets in previously unimagined detail.
This informal image [Mary Pierrepont on Silvertail , SAAM, 1994.91.166] deviated from Rutherfurd's typical repertoire of scientific photographs. It depicts his son Rutherford (his surname was that of an uncle, from whom he inherited a considerable fortune) and the young man's fiancée, Mary Pierrepont, at Tranquility Farms, the Rutherfurd family estate in New Jersey. The subjects are curiously placed at a distance from the camera, perhaps a space dictated by the camera's fixed lens, or the habit of a photographer accustomed to a more distant, planetary subject.
Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)