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Exhibition Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America's Library


Pictures of photographers are a particular delight to be found in the Library’s collection, including both self-portraits and images made by colleagues. Looking for patterns, there seems to be a shared desire to impress viewers with the risks they took to get a photograph. Degrees of jeopardy represented include one of the Kolb brothers hanging from a rope over the Grand Canyon, an anonymous man with his camera and tripod inching toward the edge of Glacier Point in Yosemite, and the aerial barnstormer “Jersey” Ringel standing on the wing of a moving airplane.

The desire to be perceived as a risk taker even led actress Esther Lyons to insert herself into images of Alaskan campsites and falsely claim in public that she was part of the expedition in the photograph when, in fact, she was never in Alaska at the time. S. W. Fallis specialized in making spirits seemingly appear around his sitters as part of a popular spirit photography fad in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

A. B. Phelan seemingly created a modern version of the land of giants in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). But it is without tricks, and probably without awareness, that one of the Gerhard sisters captured her own reflection in the eye of the legendary Apache warrior Geronimo at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.