Three Men at Shoshone Falls

Unidentified photographer
Albumen silver print, c. 1877

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This photograph depicts three men (the one on the left is possibly photographer William Henry Jackson) standing on the edge of a rock outcropping with Shoshone Falls in the background. Two cameras rest on the ground before them. On the left is a large-format view camera similar to the one displayed in this exhibition. The other is a two-lens stereograph camera.

Apart from Native Americans, few had ever encountered Shoshone Falls prior to the 1860s. Word of its size and natural beauty inspired legions of scientists and artists alike to venture into the remote Idaho frontier to see and study it. Many brought cameras to document the site and to mark their own presence at this wondrous landmark. Described by an early French traveler as comparable to “an exploding bottle of champagne,” Shoshone Falls represented another example of the West’s extraordinary beauty.