University of Delaware Library
Bookmark and Share

UD Special Collections > Exhibitions > In Focus > The Built Environment > Next

Focus on architectectural and landscape photography banner

"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." --Dorothea Lange


After the Civil War, many government-funded expeditions set out across the still-vast and yet-unexplored country, photographers-in-tow, to document geological structures; to create publicity for tourism and industry, especially for the railroads that were rapidly traversing the United States; and to scout potential sites for commerce and expansion. These expeditions enhanced the visual record for engineers, botanists, and geologists. Many of the resulting photographs were reproduced through wood engravings and lithographs that were published in the popular press and stereographs that were sold in catalogs. Photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan, at one time an employee of Matthew Brady, accompanied these expeditions.

Landscape photography is considered one of the most appealing subjects of the medium. In the nineteenth century, landscape photographers preferred the calotype over the daguerreotype, delighting in the soft texture and warm sepia tones of the salted paper print. The Pictorialist movement at the turn of the century reclaimed the aesthetic of the early landscape photographers, opting to manipulate their images to attain an illustrated appearance.

World War I and modernist ideology greatly impacted photography, shifting the aesthetic to straight photography. Leading figures of straight landscape photography in the United States, particularly of the West Coast circle, included Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston. Pictorial landscape photography remained popular, however, until the middle of the twentieth century. More meditative approaches to straight landscape photography are exemplified in the work of Adams and Paul Strand. Regardless of photographers’ styles, the subject of the natural environment remains highly popular, as demonstrated by public consumption of calendars, posters, and the enduring prints of Ansel Adams’s western landscapes and skies.

Architectural photography comprises exterior and interior views of domestic, commercial, industrial structures, as well as the development of residential areas over time. Photographic representation of structures and interiors provided documentation complementary to blueprints, reflecting aspirations of designers and consumers. Advancements in photomechanical reproduction processes like photo-lithography or half-tone printers allowed for professional journals to publish photographs. Photographs of the modern industrialized environment have been used for social and artistic purposes as well, like Walker Evans’s American Photographs, Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York, and Paul Strand’s “Wall Street” photograph, which provide a commentary on the modern urban landscape.



Delawarean James R. Maxwell (1836-1912) traveled to the western United States as chief of an exploration and survey party for the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads in the late 1860s. In 1872, he was chief engineer of the Chimbota Railroad and the Obras Publicos in Peru; he also served as chief engineer of the Central Railroad of Peru which was commonly called the Oroya railway and, at 15,666 feet above sea level, was known as the highest railroad in the world. In the course of his survey and engineering work, Maxwell collected photographic souvenirs to remember the landscapes and people from these diverse parts of the world where he traveled to work.

James R. Maxwell papers, gift of Homer Riddle Lee


timothy o'sullivan photograph of canon de chelleUnited States. Geographical Survey West of the 100th Meridian.

... Report upon United States Geographical surveys west of the 100th meridian, in charge of Geo. M. Wheeler ... under the direction of the chief of engineers, U.S. Army ... In seven volumes and one supplement, accompanied by one topographic and one geologic atlas. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1875-1889.

Shown here is a color facsimile of a photographic plate in Volume VII, Archaeology, by Timothy O’Sullivan, who accompanied Lieut. Wheeler on the historic western surveys of the Grand Canyon, northern New Mexico, and Colorado. This image is of the Cañon de Chelle in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. O’Sullivan joined Alexander Gardner’s Washington, D.C., studio after separating from Matthew Brady over recognition for their work during coverage of the Civil War. O’Sullivan contributed 44 of the 100 plates in Gardner’s monumental Photographic Sketch Book of the War, which is also shown in the gallery with the war photography.

photolithograph of home from turner's villas on the hudson

Austin Augustus Turner (circa 1831-1866)

Villas on the Hudson : a collection of photo-lithographs of thirty-one country residences. New York : D. Appleton & Co., 1860.

Shown is a color facsimile of one of the photo-lithographs from this large scale book that first pioneered the use of the process in the United States. All of the views, which were taken by Turner in 1858 and 1859, have at least one color, and some have green and brown, applied by stencil, with the image placed within gilt printed borders on pages in the volume. Turner was a daguerreotypist, ambrotypist, and photographer who worked between 1852 and his death in 1866 in Boston, New York, Lynchburg (Virginia), Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New Orleans; he also traveled to Paris during this time to study technical advances in photography. One of Turner’s business partners in Boston, Lodowick Bradford, patented the method of printing lithographs from photographs in 1858, which inspired Turner’s project to photograph the large homes along the Hudson. The volume also includes twenty-one floor plans.

title page of Central Park by Guild

W. H. Guild, Jr.

The Central Park. Photographed by W.H. Guild ; with descriptions and a historical sketch by Fred. B. Perkins. New York : Carleton, 1864, c1863.

The progress of the construction of Central Park was documented with 51
photographs taken by W.H. Guild to accompany Frederick Perkins’s text, making this an important nineteenth-century book illustrated with original photography. Shown are two color facsimiles of some of Guild’s images.





Wayne Hall, no. 15 plate from Gutekunst's Louella

Frederick Gutekunst.

Louella, home of J. Henry Askin, Wayne Station, Pennsylvania Rail Road, Radnor Township, Delaware County Pennsylvania : views of mansion, farm houses, surrounding scenery, etc. Photographed by F. Gutekunst. S.l. : s.n., circa 1870.

Shown is a color facsimile laid on a loose plate facing the title page: “No. 15, Wayne Hall, as seen from the South West. This building is located directly upon the Pike and has been erected for public uses, a Library Company, for lectures and other secular purposes during the week, and for worship on Sundays. In the background can be seen the railroad, and across it, the cultivated fields.” Born in Germantown, F. Gutekunst flourished for decades as a studio photographer on Arch Street in Philadelphia. Cabinet cards with his studio name on the verso appear in many of the family papers, such as the Pearson family papers, housed in Special Collections. Among Gutekunst’s famous subjects was Walt Whitman.

Gilbert Seldes (1893-1970), editor.

This is New York : the first modern photographic book of New York. Photographic editor, Leigh Irwin. New York : D. Kemp, 1934 (S.l. : Printing House of William Edwin Rudge).

"From the bookshop for boys and girls..." This children’s book is illustrated with modernist photo-collages that capture the modern energy of New York City’s built environment. Gilbert Seldes was an author and culture critic who contributed to popular American magazines and journals ranging from The Dial to Saturday Evening Post to Vanity Fair.




Reinhart Wolf (b. 1930)Cover of New York

New York in photographs.Preface, Edward Albee ; text, Sabina Lietzmann ; interview, Andy Warhol. New York : Vendome Press : Distributed by the Viking Press, [1981].
Robert A. Wilson collection

This copy is signed by American playwright Edward Albee. Reinhart Wolf, who used an 8 x 10 camera to photograph the vertical architecture of New York, said in his interview with Andy Warhol, “The constant impulse to look upwards is an experience that New York shares with medieval cathedrals.” He also described his gear, “… I used a big 8 by 10 camera so as to capture the smallest detail with the greatest possible precision; and I used a long focal-length lens supported by two heavy tripods, sometimes—when there was wind—even anchored in position with rocks.” The oversize scale of this book is well matched to its subject.



Willard S. Stewart (1915-2003)Dock with boats, Willard Steward, circa 1930s

Willard Stewart WPA and HABS photographs of Delaware, 1936-1938

This digital collection contains 246 photographs of landscapes and buildings in Delaware taken by the prominent Wilmington, Delaware, photographer, Willard S. Stewart. During the 1930s, Stewart became the primary photographer for the Delaware Federal Writers’ Project and photographed numerous Delaware buildings and landscapes. Many of these images were published in New Castle on the Delaware (1936) and Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938), both of which were published by the Delaware Federal Writers' Project. Original photographs are housed in Special Collections and the Library’s digital collection provides worldwide access to these images of Delaware.


Ansel Adams (1902-1984)

Making a photograph : an introduction to photography. London : Studio Limited ; New York : Studio Publications Inc. (London : Blackmore Press), 1939.

Ansel’s quote that “Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter” understates his technical expertise. Ansel Adams was a founding member of Group f/64, a Bay Area group of photographers that also included Edward Weston and Imogene Cunningham. In reaction to the emotional, soft focus of Pictorialism, Group f/64 championed “straight” or pure photography. The group’s name refers to the smallest lens opening on the camera through which light passes. Anything photographed at this stop is rendered in sharp focus with fine detail. In addition to books featuring his photography, Adams published several technical texts. Making a Photograph was his first book. Issued in a “How to do it” series by the publisher, this book includes 36 mounted photographs illustrating techniques of lighting, focus, composition, and other topics.


This page is maintained by Special Collections.

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014