Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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Picturing Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park
By William H. Goetzmann

This essay is concerned with the various ways in which Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park have been pictured by cartographers, artists, photographers, film makers, and television. Add to this dreamers and the present author's point of view, especially since almost all the pictures and films and vistas do represent unique points of view—including those of a visitor today who is concerned with the historical setting (memories) as well as shifting media and representations of this staggeringly beautiful place that is nonetheless haunted by its past.

The Tetons, Snake River
The Tetons—Snake River by Ansel Adams, 1942. National Archives

The Teton Mountains that tower over Jackson Hole are among the most familiar landmarks in the American West. They have been photographed perhaps more than any other mountains in that vast region. Ansel Adams's striking view of the Snake River winding towards the majestic snow-covered peaks, made in 1942 for the Interior Department, is an image of grandeur that stands as the climax vision of the Grand Teton National Park, if not the whole Rocky Mountain West.

Now, in the late twentieth century, more people have seen this iconic picture than marveled at William H. Jackson's nineteenth-century photograph of the Mount of the Holy Cross in western Colorado. To a religious Victorian age, Jackson's 1873 photograph of a remote mountain face on which a huge cross made of snow hung glistening in the sun was the ultimate symbol of America's holy mission in the West. Thomas Moran's highly romantic painting of the Mount of the Holy Cross seemed to make it almost an American cathedral that far overshadowed anything from Medieval Europe. America's Manifest Destiny was reified, confirmed, christened, and blessed by the Almighty.

Ansel Adams's mighty view of the Tetons, on the other hand, as an icon for the twentieth century, says something else. It may denote a tourist and sportsman's destination but it does not stand for a mission of conquest. It denotes the pristine grandeur of nature—the towering beauty of all outdoors untouched by human presence, though we know, of course, that some human, some photographer, has framed, conceived and captured the scene. It needs no beckoning cross, however. Indeed, Adams's view of the forests, the curling river, and the mountain peaks begs that they be left alone the way they were a million years ago. [1]

We know now that that has not been the case. Image makers from accomplished painters to snapshot photographers have come to Grand Teton National Park to capture not only its natural beauty, but also glimpses of its history, the dude ranch era, and its colorful life. Jackson Hole, the lively town of Jackson, once a gambling mecca for cowboys and movie stars, and even the Tetons themselves, have become a fantastic tourist destination—not yet as overrun as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Indeed, since the struggle to create and expand the National Park was finally consummated by Horace Albright of the Park Service, John D. Rockefeller II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress in 1943, a different course has been taken. [2] Snake River Valley farms and ranch houses have been torn down or, like Dr. Horace Carncross's and Struthers Burt's famous Bar BC dude ranch, have been left abandoned. Today the cabins where famous literati gathered to fish and hunt and commune with nature, and the dance hall complete with an illegal whiskey still and bar where they gathered to play, is now a ruin, slowly being invaded by a bend of the Snake River. It is still the subject of tourists with cameras who, in their minds, appreciate its authentic rusticity and glamorous past.

The Mount of the Holy Cross
The Mount of the Holy Cross by William Henry Jackson, 1873. US. Geological Survey, William Henry Jackson #1276

Mormon Row, part of which still stands out on a meadow in the shadow of Blacktail Butte, is testimony of the difficult Mormon trek over Teton Pass in 1893. It is dominated now by a barn, tin-roofed in fairly recent times, while the rest of the row, including a few houses, is slowly falling to pieces. Moulton Barn, on the other hand, also part of the Mormon settlement, still stands intact in all of its rustic glory with the Tetons rising behind it. There are also outbuildings and a sagging corral. The Mormons, like earlier settlers, ranched and had large hayfields spread out along Ditch Creek. Not far from it, to the west, near present day Moose, Wyoming, is the site of Menor's Ferry over which some of the Mormons crossed the Snake River. Nothing now marks John Holland's and John Carnes' Flat Creek Ranch, the first homesteaders in the valley in 1884. [3] It is now part of the Elk Refuge. We can visit the Cunningham cabin on Spread Creek where a posse from Jackson gunned down George Spenser and young Mike Burnett, thinking them to be cattle rustlers. But, John D. Sargents ten-room log lodge, Merymere, on the shores of Jackson Lake is gone. A photograph of John Sargent sitting contentedly by his fireplace remains. But the mysterious lodge, where Sargent (a relative of John Singer Sargent) believing his wife to be having an affair, drowned her "lover" and probably killed his wife by breaking both her hips, is gone. Later, for pay, he married a second wife who liked to play the violin while naked in a tree on the main trail to Yellowstone. But legendary Merymere (a name that would be cherished in Britain) is no more. Perhaps the tree is still there, but Merymere is gone, along with Sargent who, sitting in his favorite rocker before the fireplace, blew his brains out with a rifle when his exhibitionist wife was taken away and his support disappeared. [4]

Much history has been neglected or removed from Jackson Hole in favor of a return to nature where the preservation of the great elk herd seems primary, and where the buffalo still roam while visitors still hope to see antelope on Antelope Flats and moose feeding near glacier-made ponds. As one looks down from Signal Mountain, the whole valley seems empty with only the forest and the river and vast green meadows over which the Tetons and the National Park Service stand guard.

Despite the fact that the valley of the Tetons was never a crossroad of the West—to the mountain men the Green River or even Pierre's Hole to the west of the Tetons seemed more inviting for their rendezvous and to many a tourist it was a stop on the road to Yellowstone Park—it has been pictured many times.

Sargent at Merymere Lodge
John Dudley Sargent, sitting by the fireplace at his Merymere lodge. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Start with the maps since they are a picture of a part of the earth. William Clark's great manuscript map of 1810 shows John Colter's 1807 route from Manuel Lisas fort on the Big Horn through what is now Jackson Hole to Pierre's Hole. [5] The Tetons are not on this map. However, in Clark's map of 1814 that accompanied Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen's History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark published in Philadelphia in 1814, Colter's route past Lake Biddle (Jackson Lake?) and into the Jackson Hole region is shown, together with three clearly delineated mountain peaks overlooking the lake to the West. According to one authority, a party from the Northwest Company came far south through Yellowstone and into Jackson Hole where a French engagé named the mountains Les Tetons. [6] If this happened, the news of the Tetons does not appear on Chevalier Lapie's map of 1821, widely published in Nouvelle Annales des Voyages in Paris, though he seems aware of Wilson Price Hunt's travels through the Wind River Valley and Union Pass, as well as Robert Stuart's return through Jackson Hole and South Pass. Indeed Lapie's map was published along with an abridgement of Wilson Price Hunt's westward route and Robert Stuart's "traveling memoranda" of his return eastward via Jackson Hole, the Wind River Mountains and what came to be known as "the South Pass"—the route of American migration to Oregon and California. Perhaps Lapie's omission was due to American Fur Company mogul, John Jacob Astor himself who, while insisting that the news of the expedition be first published in the prestigious Nouvelles Annales de Voyages, by no means wished to provide explicit directions to his competitors in the fur trade including the British Northwest Company.

One really had to wait until English cartographer Aaron Arrowsmith's Hudson's Bay Company published his map of "British North America" (1834) to see the Tetons on a widely distributed map. By then, though Jackson Hole was well known to fur trappers, including the Americans David Jackson and Jedediah Smith, Arrowsmith misplaces it on his map. The next public cartographic exposure appeared on Captain Benjamin Bonneville's map of 1837 where the Tetons are placed somewhat north of Jackson Hole. Captain Washington Hood of the Corps of Topographical Engineers located the Tetons on his official Map of the United States Territory of Oregon published in 1838 obviously aimed to establish American claims vis-a-vis Britain to the Northwest region.

Earlier in 1836 the mountain man Warren Ferris had drawn a map clearly showing the location of Jackson Lake and the Tetons. This map did not come to light for over 100 years, nor did a similar map drawn by Jim Bridger. Still another map that locates, however carelessly, Jackson Hole and the Tetons is the celebrated Fremont-Gibbs-Smith map of 1831. This was a version of Lt. John C. Fremont's 1845 map of his circumnavigation of the West, possessed by George Gibbs of Fort Vancouver on which Gibbs placed all the geographical data known by the great mountain man explorer Jedediah Smith with whom, in 1831, he spent many weeks. This map, which so excited cartographic historian Carl I. Wheat and mountain man historian Dale L. Morgan, surfaced as late as 1954, though the information must also have appeared as early as 1831 as told also to Samuel Parkman who was readying Smith's journals and maps for publication just before the legendary explorer was murdered by Comanches on the Cimarron River while on the way to Santa Fe.

For a long period of time, Jackson Hole and the mighty Tetons were neglected except by a few settlers, ranchers and elk's tooth poachers who lived in sod-roofed dugouts. Because Elks Clubs spread rapidly over the United States the front teeth of the noble beasts were in high demand for club members watch chains. Luckily by 1900 the Elks Clubs did not require that a man possess such a tooth to be a member and the dwindling elk herds were saved.

In 1859 Capt. William F. Raynolds, guided by the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger, and assisted by a party of scientific men including Ferdinand V. Hayden, set off from Ft. Pierre on the Missouri to explore the Upper Missouri and Upper Yellowstone country for a system of wagon roads reaching as far north as the Mullan Road at Fort Benton and as far south as Fort Laramie. Needless to say, he failed in this ambitious mission even while leading his snow-bound and starving men including Bridger over the Continental Divide. He did succeed, however, in exploring and scientifically mapping the Jackson Hole area while Hayden made the first geological report on the Tetons and surrounding regions. His cartographer, J. H. Snowden, made six original maps. Blocked by snow, Raynolds never reached the wonders of Yellowstone. Instead he had to listen to Bridget tell him over and over about the geysers and paint pots in what must have been an exquisite form of torture, especially since Raynolds knew full well that if he could reach and explore the Yellowstone geyser basins, he would become famous. But it was not to be. Sketches of the Teton Basin by the artists of the expedition, J. D. Hutton and Antoine Schonborn, are possibly among the sketches at Yale. In 1871 Schonborn was to see and sketch the Yellowstone with Ferdinand V. Hayden's expedition. Schonborn committed suicide in Omaha, Nebraska, after the 1871 expedition to Yellowstone. [7]

In 1870, Lt. Gustavus Doane, a cavalryman, escorted a party of Montana businessmen and politicians into Yellowstone that included N. P. Langford, Henry D. Washburn and Cornelius Hedges. They explored its wonders and determined to make it a national wilderness park. [8] They sent articles and sketches to Scribner's Magazine that were turned into surprisingly accurate illustrations by the artist Thomas Moran who had not yet seen Yellowstone and its marvels. Because the party entered from the north at Fort Ellis, Montana, Jackson Hole did not figure in their itinerary. Perhaps they did not even know of it.

The most important early map of the Jackson Hole area was made by Gustavus Bechler on Professor Ferdinand V. Hayden's second expedition into Yellowstone in 1872. [9] In 1871, Hayden, head of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories, sponsored by the Department of the Interior, had led an extensive exploring expedition into the Yellowstone region, taking with him the artist Thomas Moran and the photographer William H. Jackson. Moran's sketches and Jackson's photographs, together with the intense lobbying of N. P. Langford and the railroad tourist interests of Jay Cooke, convinced Congress to make Yellowstone the nation's first national wilderness park.

Hayden's expedition of 1872 was most relevant for Jackson Hole. The professor and his men, now famous, explored and mapped the Jackson Valley and the Tetons. James Stevenson, Hayden's primary assistant, led that wing of the expedition. Stevenson and N. P Langford climbed to the top of Grand Teton Peak. It was a claim that was first disputed by William O. Owen, who climbed the peak in 1898, and has been disputed ever since. In fact, due to Owen's relentless lobbying, in 1926 the legislature of Wyoming proclaimed him the first to ascend to the crest of the Grand Teton. [10] Most importantly however, Bechler's map represented the most extensive and careful delineation of the region made to date. It was a climax view, and Hayden's party named most of the features of the region, including Jenny Lake, a memorial to the heroic Indian wife of mountain man "Beaver Dick" Leigh, an early settler in the region. One of the Tetons was named Mount Moran after the spectacular artist who had accompanied the 1871 expedition to Yellowstone.

In the summer of 1873, Captain William A. Jones also explored in Jackson Hole and produced another carefully-drawn overall map together with 49 specific geological and geographic maps, plus a spectacularly colored overall geologic map by Theodore Comstock. [11] This was the first thorough scientific study and view of the geologic history of Jackson Hole, which is so complex and interesting, with the great fault bloc Teton Range thrust upwards over a lower plate, and then the massive eroded valley formed by ancient glaciers, leaving boulders, moraines and drumlins and the winding Snake River, ever-shifting, its former banks forming hillocks that trace its ancient course. Comstock's study and vivid map opened a whole new area of "picturing" Jackson Hole. It began to resurrect its ancient history.

There have, of course, been many subsequent cartographic images of what is now Grand Teton National Park, especially important maps that delineated the increasing extent of the park including John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s enormous contribution. During the struggle to enlarge the park from its 1929 founding to its 1943 final boundaries that created the adjoining Jackson Hole National Monument, maps were naturally crucial, especially to Rockefeller's Snake River Land Company that was secretly buying out the valley's ranch properties. [12]

Cartographically picturing the region will probably never really end. Standard United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) topographical maps are today being replaced by detailed Landsat space satellite maps made under the auspices of the United States Geological Survey and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. For most people, pictures mean paintings, drawings and photographs. So many of these have been made over the years, especially by tourists, that only the highlights can be considered here. It is likely that J. D. Hutton and perhaps Antoine Schonborn, the artists who accompanied Capt. William F. Raynolds's expedition into the valley in 1860, were the first artists to sketch Jackson Hole.

William H. Jackson, in 1872, was the first to photograph the Tetons. He did so from a base camp in Pierre's Hole on the west side of the mountains. For eight days Jackson and his assistants struggled with heavy cameras and stubborn mules to climb high enough to make an unobstructed and spectacular view of the central Tetons. He succeeded finally, but still from afar, with lesser peaks and valleys, including that of Glacier Creek intervening. On the ninth day Jackson finally found himself face to face with the west side of the Grand Teton peak, 13,747 feet high. He himself was variously out on a ledge on Table Mountain on the Idaho side and then in a cleft between two major outcroppings. Jackson was well aware of the adventure in photographing the Tetons. He had one of his assistants make a wet plate photograph of him with another assistant, his camera and his small portable darkroom tent way out on the edge of a high precipice with the three Tetons looming in the background miles away. Jackson, in the fashion of Eadweard Muybridge, was often into self-dramatization, but this photo is one of his classics. Later Jackson would enter Jackson Hole proper on the east side of the Tetons and make numerous photographs from what have become familiar tourist vantage points. [13] Some of these he would turn into post cards, later sold by the Detroit Publishing Company. One of his better views from east of the Tetons is a long-range flat panoramic view across the Snake River that captures virtually the whole mountain range in the picture. It prefigures Ansel Adams's stunning view but with far less drama. This photograph was probably made in 1878 when Jackson joined Hayden's last field survey that took him and a photographic division through Jackson Hole. The party, led by Hayden himself was accompanied by William H. Holmes, one of the great topographic artists of his time. The 1878 expedition entered via Hoback Canyon to the south. From Hoback Canyon, Jackson proceeded northward through Jackson Hole, following the Snake River into Yellowstone. Jackson wrote very little about Jackson Hole and the Tetons in his autobiography so he must not have been as impressed by its beauty as he was by the fireworks at Yellowstone. Perhaps, after seven years of photographing landscapes, he was jaded. Many of Jackson's photographs can be found in the picture archives of the U.S.G.S. in Denver. Jackson was fortunate that his Yellowstone and Jackson Hole photos and camera survived. As early as 1871, Capt. J. W. Barlow, leading a military expedition into Yellowstone, took along Thomas J. Hines as a photographer. Hines's photographs arrived in Chicago just in time to be destroyed in the great fire of that year. [14]

Panoramic View of the Great Teton Range
Panoramic View of the Great Teton Range, Looking East by William Henry Jackson, 1872. Note figure standing on the peak in the middle-right foreground U.S. Geological Survey, William Henry Jackson #410

Another of the West's great photographers was F. Jay Haynes of Fargo, North Dakota. Haynes, along with Jackson, was perhaps the most enterprising of all western photographers. He worked under contract with the Northern Pacific Railroad for many years, photographing the building of the road as well as the scenery and towns along its transcontinental route. As a major part of his equipment he had his own railroad car studio—"Haynes Palace Studio." He first entered Yellowstone in 1881, only three years after Hayden had mapped it and Jackson had made his final photos of the scenery. Immediately Haynes saw the tourist possibilities of Yellowstone and applied to the Secretary of the Interior for an exclusive photographer's concession in the park. With annual persistence he got his exclusive concession in 1884 and land upon which to build two substantial studio buildings—one at Old Faithful and one at Mammoth Hot Springs.

But even as he was applying for the concession at Yellowstone, Haynes explored Jackson Hole for other photographic possibilities. In fact, he became the official photographer for President Chester A. Arthur's excursion to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole in 1883. Haynes took a memorable group photograph of President Arthur flanked by General Philip Sheridan and Secretary of War Robert Lincoln. The red-faced, mutton-chopped Arthur is seated, wearing a tam like some feudal Scottish chieftain. The excursion permitted no reporters or women, and at each of his three camps in Jackson Hole—Gros Ventre River Canyon, on the Gros Ventre near Blacktail Butte, and along a bend of the Snake River just below the fork of the Buffalo River—a bar tent was prominent. When the explorers weren't fishing, Arthur's favorite sport, they were drinking in a sort of Bohemian Grove, male-bonding camp in Jackson Hole. On one occasion, when the Indian guides staged a war dance for the President, one of the drunken dancers nearly "whacked Great Chester on the head!" Haynes, of course, photographed the dance that must have been a high point on what one author has called "The Bottle Trail." [15]

Indeed, Haynes took a number of splendid photographs on the trip. The Tetons, of course, dominated many of his pictures that also often feature Indian scouts astride horses on a strong foreground of meadow, gravel or sand bars. One photo is certainly a harbinger of modernism. It featured bands of light and dark horizontally across the picture, making the Teton Valley scene almost abstract. The foreground is a light gravel bar, then the dark Gros Ventre River, then another thinner streak of light gravel, then a bank of dark trees and, finally, a distant view of the Tetons as the focal point of the picture. New York's avant garde Photo-Secessionists would have liked it, even though it was a bit in advance of their own art photographs.

Several other of Haynes's pictures remind one of Edward Curtis's early Alaska work (1899). [16] One camp scene features the pith-helmeted president looking out across the Snake River from his camp in the evening—a sunset glow just beyond the distant Tetons. Another is a tight shot of an Indian guide framed by two trees with the Tetons merely a back drop in the distance. Still another sequence of photos appear to be self-portraits and experimental shots. The first shows a black cowboy hunter holding a mule in a broad field before the overwhelming presence of the Tetons. Haynes is sprawled on the ground. Then in a stereoscope repetition of the scene, the mule has vanished. Clearly, in many of his surviving photographs, Haynes was not only trying for artistry, but also challenging the overwhelming presence of the Tetons by using interesting dark and light foregrounds that often included, but did not necessarily need, human figures even for scale. The enterprising Haynes is often thought of as a huckster, a mere post card photographer, but his scenes of Jackson Hole and the valley testify to his conscious attempts at artistry.

President Chester A. Arthur
President Chester A. Arthur, seated center, toured Yellowstone and Jackson Hole in 1883. F. Jay Haynes was the official photographer for the presidential excursion.

In 1888, five years after President Chester A. Arthur "explored" Jackson Hole while F. J. Haynes took the picture, a number of trappers entered the valley. One of these was Stephen Nelson Leek, who hailed most recently from Nebraska. In the winter of 1888 he lived in a cabin built by Beaver Dick Leigh. Soon he staked out his own homestead three miles south of present day Jackson. He was one of only forty settlers who braved the winters of the valley. Soon Leek was taking hunting parties and dudes through the mountains. One of his "dudes" was George Eastman who gave Leek a Kodak view camera. While running a sawmill, a dairy farm, later a cattle ranch, dude ranch/hunting lodge and writing many poems and articles, Leek became one of the foremost photographers in the country. He photographed the scenery, of course, but he was best known for his wildlife photographs. Elk were his specialty. He knew their habits so well he could camouflage himself in a small snow fort, load and train his camera and then whistle the elk to attention while he snapped his shutter. Leek proudly asserted, "It is not often you get so close to wild elk as to be able to ask them to hold their heads up and look pleasant." [17]

Soon Leek was seeing his wildlife and scenery photographs published in most of the outdoor magazines and even The United Geographic Magazine. He had also sent off to France for a new Pathe movie camera and projector. With his motion pictures and slides of the plight of the elk in Jackson Hole, Leek went on to the Orpheum lecture circuit and even spoke before Congress. The estimated 12,000 elk in the valley were starving in the winter as the cattle ranchers built fences around their haystacks. Leek described them as "living skeletons of once noble specimens." [18] In the winter of 1908-1909 people could remember walking miles on the strewn bodies of dead elk. And then there were the elks tooth robbers who sold many a tooth from these dead, starved animals to the Elks Club where they were made into fashionable watch fobs.

dead elk
Ranchers fed all the hay that could be spared, but the desperate animals still raided fenced haystacks. The feed within reach was not enough to save them. Stephen Leek, Jackson Hole Historical Society

Thanks to Leek's photography and cinematography, as well as his tireless crusading, the Wyoming Legislation in 1909 appropriated $5,000.00 for grain to feed them. The next two years Congress bought 3,500 acres along Flat Creek to create a national Elk refuge that gradually rose to its present size of 23,000 acres. Clearly Leek was the most effective photographer of Jackson Hole and one of the unsung heroes of the American Conservation Movement. [19] As a poet he was interesting as well:

"And when I hit that emblazed trail,
across the Great Divide,
Grant that my resting place may be
By Old Snake River's side." [20]

Perhaps the central figure in Jackson Hole photography was Harrison "Hank" Crandall. Originally from Newton, Kansas, Hank Crandall was first inspired to be a Teton Valley photographer by a William H. Jackson photo of the Tetons that he saw in a grade school geography book. [21] Crandall was a generation later than Jackson, but Jackson lived so long he became Crandall's contemporary and actually visited him at Jenny Lake in 1929 at the dedication of Grand Teton National Park. Crandall was also a generation younger than Haynes. He came to Jackson Hole, after service in World War I, in 1921. The following year, he brought his wife Hildegarde, some camping equipment, and a 3A Special Edition Eastman Kodak camera to Jackson Hole in a Ford Model T that bumped over roads that had "not yet been built." He made friends with the storekeeper at Moran, spent the winter as his renter, and the following spring staked out a homestead claim east of String Lake, near what is now Jenny Lake Lodge. Crandall built a log cabin and began his career as a photographer and landscape artist. When Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929, Hank sold his cabin and moved the substantial studio and showroom that he had built to the Jenny Lake area, where it still stands. He was a family man, however, and with the birth of two daughters he was persuaded to move to Boise, Idaho, for their education. Jackson Hole had only primitive schooling. He came back to Jackson Hole every spring and summer to continue his painting and photographic business which, like Haynes's at Yellowstone, was made a park concession at the behest of Horace B. Albright, then Director of the National Park Service. Crandall made scenic photos of the Tetons that he sold as park mementos or as post cards. He did a good business during the dude ranch era of the twenties and thirties, during which time writers like Owen Wister, who wrote The Virginian (ca. 1902), stayed at the Bar BC Ranch.

Harrison Crandall
Harrison Crandall is Grand Teton National Park's best known photographer. His former studio now serves as the visitor center at Jenny Lake. National Park Service

As early as 1921, Crandall was selling pictures to dudes as fast as he could make them. All through the twenties he sold countless photos of dudes in cowboy outfits—or cowgirl outfits. Celebrities like Cissy Patterson Gizycka, heiress to the Chicago Tribune fortune, a Polish countess on the loose and the wildest woman in Jackson Hole, had her picture taken by Crandall while at the Bar BC Dude Ranch, although her paramour, Cal Carrington, the foreman at the ranch, allegedly a former horsethief probably avoided Crandall's lens. [22]

Crandall's photos were exuberant and theatrical, far from the brooding darkness of his contemporary, Ansel Adams. One of his best photos is a self-portrait showing him far up among the snowy crags of the Tetons. Another, in color, showed a mountain climber dangling from a rope below a mountain ledge. He liked to see the Tetons and his subjects stand out against blue skies. He also produced documentary photos for motion picture company location scouts, frequently using his panoramic camera that produced 7 x 17-inch negatives. But, because ranching, cowboys and dudes were at every hand, he photographed them more often than the Tetons. At the same time, he painted delicate pictures of the valley's wildflowers and made them into collector's item post cards. And when he had time he did paint his beloved Tetons. His work went all the way to the East Coast, appearing in magazines and calendars and in John D. Rockefeller's dressing room. In 1931, Rockefeller wrote Crandall, "The beautiful colored picture you gave us when we were here last has been framed and hangs in my dressing room. It gives us constant delight." The affable Hank Crandall, who liked to photograph pretty cowgirls and handsome cowboys, was a romantic in the Roaring Twenties way out West. [23]

Ansel Adams, born in 1902 in San Francisco, provided a contrast with virtually everyone else who photographed in Jackson Hole. Very much the art photographer from the beginning, he came to know Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Beaumont and Nancy Newhall of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1920, dazzled by Yosemite, he decided to become a professional photographer and a pillar of the Sierra Club. He even married Virginia Best in Yosemite in 1928. [24] Photographing Yosemite had a long tradition from C. L. Wead's first efforts to those of Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge. Adams was certainly challenged by their work as he began his career photographing Yosemite and the high Sierras. He also admired the matter-of-fact work of the early survey photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan, who was deliberately not an art photographer.

Ansel Adams became an institution as a photographer. He had over 500 exhibitions, his own gallery in San Francisco, and a studio in Yosemite. He traveled all over the West, making his extraordinary photographs. He even developed the "Zone Method" of controlling light and dark in his black-and-white pictures. [25] This was followed by several other books and films on photographic techniques as Adams seemed to "scientize" photography while developing techniques that almost mechanically lent high drama to his pictures.

This chapter started with a description of Adams's striking but dark picture of the Snake River and the Tetons in a rainstorm—a picture that became an American icon. He made many other photos in Jackson Hole, probably in 1942 when Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes commissioned him to photograph all the national parks. A look at a series of Adams's pictures reveals not a man with dudes or tourists in mind, but a person with an inner feeling and a tremendous ambition to control his scenes like Renaissance artists. He photographed a spare, slanted view of the Tetons and Jackson Lake at sunrise. It could be a Japanese print. He did Mount Moran with bands of light-colored aspens and dark pines dominating one half of the picture. Mount Moran is seen almost as a three-dimensional backdrop, indicating that Adams was respectful of the mountain but not dominated by it. There were other pictures of Mount Moran, some in which the storm-clouded sky dominated three-fourths of the picture, making the Tetons recede to a far less commanding position. Like all the other photographers who had visited the valley, he was challenged by the Tetons. In one photo, Tetons and Jackson Lake, Driftwood, the driftwood seems like a mountain from which he views the Tetons and their reflection far across a lake. Edward Curtis had used this technique on his trip with E. H. Harriman to Alaska in 1899. [26] Many of Adams's pictures feature water or stands of trees rather than the mountain. He is in control of nature just as is his organization, the Sierra Club. In one of his best pictures, Adams really ignores his subject, Mormon Row, and entitles his picture incorrectly Ranch and Mount Leidy, Jackson Hole. He is facing east, away from the Tetons. Adams is now passing out of fashion in the march of the "New Topographers" like Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and Len Jenshel who photographed the West as a deteriorating suburban wasteland—in Peter Blake's term "God's own junkyard"—or Peter Goin, Richard Misrach and Patrick Nagatani, who delight in photographing atomic testing sites in Utah and Nevada. They see the west as Death Valley, a total Zabriski Point. Or, like Mark Klett in his re-photographic project, they trace the changes man and time have wrought on, say, O'Sullivan's familiar photo landmarks of the nineteenth century. [27] None of these new topographers have worked in Jackson Hole, probably because, as much as possible, with the exception of Jackson itself Teton Village and the Rockefeller Lodge, traces of human activity have been extensively effaced, though some farms and ranches remain, dotting the valley. Man is not prominent in nature.

Below Zero-Bison
Below Zero-Bison by Thomas Mangelsen. Mangelsen, a wildlife photographer who has traveled throughout the world, has done some of his finest work in Jackson Hole. Thomas D. Mangelsen

Three modern photographers have also done striking work in the Tetons. One, currently operating out of Omaha and Jackson, Thomas D. Mangelsen, is a wildlife photographer. Though he has traveled to Arctic regions and Africa making color photos of animals and their exotic locales, some of his best works have been of wildlife in Jackson Hole. One that stands out profoundly is a picture of two lonely buffalo on a windswept rocky plain with the temperature far below zero. Seen through a filter in a chilling blue atmosphere, they stand outlined against the snow-covered Tetons almost obscured by clouds of blowing snow off of which the dim winter sun is reflecting. Mangelsen has done other chromatic photos of the Tetons themselves but his trademark is a sensitivity to animal life, and where they fit in their particular ecosystem. Many of these appear in his book Images of Nature: The Photographs of Thomas D. Mangelsen. [28]

Perhaps the premier color photographer of the national parks is David Muench. His photographs of Grand Teton National Park are spectacular. They appear in his book, National Parks of America, together with a text by a former Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall and his brother, James Udall. By the late twentieth century, when environmental issues are at the political center stage, it is almost mandatory for Interior Secretaries to commission art photographs of America's wilderness areas as a subtle form of political propaganda. Muench's photographs, however, are special—perhaps the best western photographs ever made. In his National Parks of America, Muench includes four stunning views of Grand Teton National Park. The most spectacular perhaps is January Dawn: Teton Range, rose red as taken through a filtered lens. Two pictures feature Lake Solitude, one with a misty "snowmelt design" that not only reflects the Tetons in the hidden lake but also appears to cast a halo around them. The fourth picture, Moonset, Grand Tetons, features a daylight moon over the pinkish Tetons which makes them look deliberately artificial. Muench's photographs have appeared in such magazines as National Geographic, New York Times, Wilderness, Outdoor Photographer, Photographic, Life, Sierra and the Smithsonian Magazine. Recently he has been working with his son Marc Muench whose landscape photographs follow in his father's footsteps but also sometimes include human figures. [29]

Still other photographers of note are Ed Riddell and Jim Olson whose stunning scenes in both black and white and color illustrate a reprint of the legendary geologist of Jackson Hole, Fritiof Fryxell's little classic, The Tetons: Interpretations of a Mountain Landscape. Olson's views are from the tops of the Tetons or close up among the peaks, thus offering relatively unusual points of view affording panoramas of the valley or the intimate high up views of the mountain climber, for the Tetons are very often the destination of such adventurers. Riddell's views are moody with storms and sunsets in the manner of Ansel Adams. [30]

Another contemporary photographer, Frederic C. Joy, immigrated to Jackson Hole from Utah in 1958 to continue the family tradition of scenic photography started by his grandfather, who was married to the gorgeous Miss Utah of his day and termed by a disgruntled Struthers Burt, a former partner, a "Bluebeard" in 1911. Frederic C. Joy, his grandson, does not have Miss Utah in tow, but he has made what are among the most refreshing color photographs of the Teton region. Much of his work is reminiscent of Eliot Porter's pictures of the Glen Canyon of the Colorado. [31] These are close-up abstractions of erosions of the Tetons by glacial melt-water unlike those of any other photographer in the area. Besides these abstractions, Joy celebrates the fields of flowers and golden aspens that lie before the Tetons, as well as historical landmarks like the Bar BC Ranch, its red-roofed saddle barn in the foreground before a background of autumn trees and the Tetons in the distance.

But what of the millions of people with Nikons and Kodaks who take pictures in the park—of the Tetons, the wildlife, themselves? Robert Bednar, a recent student of mine, has argued that all of these pictures, such as those of the Moulton Barn, the most photographed barn in the West, do not represent reality but the hyper-real. [32] They represent, according to Bednar, the photography of the already expected. In the poet Ezra Pound's terms they are "shades of a shade," "daguerreotypes of a likeness," [33] pictures of pictures already made a thousand times. As such, Bednar sees them as artificial simulations and, therefore, a dead end as to reality and contact with nature itself. Could this be true of Jackson Hole with its iconic Tetons? Is it all a cliche?

The historian Carl Becker once wrote an essay entitled "Everyman his own historian." I wonder if the millions of snapshots aren't really discoveries, re-exploration of a part of the earth thought to have been discovered, mapped and pictured by mountain men, explorers, surveyors and professional photographers? Hand-held camera visitors to the Teton Valley are likewise explorers. They may pit themselves consciously against, or in imitation of previous photographers, but with new equipment, new technology and different, even ironic, outlooks, they really are making the age-old landscape—new. It is a struggle to make something new—except babies.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004