Best known for his Civil War photographs, Alexander Gardner also documented the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (later the Kansas Pacific Railroad), across Kansas beginning in 1867. This book presents recent photographs by John R. Charlton of the scenes Gardner recorded, paired with the Gardner originals and accompanied by James E. Sherow's discussion. Like most rephotography projects, this one provides fascinating information about the changes in the landscape over the last century and a half.
The book presents ninety pairs of Gardner's and Charlton's photographs. In all of Charlton's photos he duplicates the exact location and time of day of the Gardner originals. Sherow uses the paired images to show how Indian and Anglo-American land-use practices affected the landscape. As the Union Pacific claimed, the railroad created an American empire in the region, and Charlton's rephotography captures the transformation of the grasslands, harnessed by the powerful social and economic forces of the railroad.
"The value of this book is that it exposes us to a different interpretation of the frontier, one that forces us to recognize the realities of early but uncompromising corporate power."--Kansas History
"A fascinating re-look at Kansas and the grasslands, viewed not only through the camera lens but also through the less tangible, yet still revealing, historical lenses of technology, conquest, environmental change, and time."--Julie Courtwright, author of Prairie Fire: A Great Plains History
"Sherow and Charlton have taken on a very ambitious project of great historical importance: retracing the photographs of America's heartland made by the nineteenth-century railroad photographer Alexander Gardner. With painstaking research and tremendous skill Charlton has relocated the camera positions of some of the first photographs of Kansas and the Midwest and made new photographs of the contemporary landscape. The results connect the past to the present, recording over a century of change and cultural intervention. This book is an outstanding example of rephotographic art combined with compelling and thought-provoking historical analysis."--Mark Klett, coauthor of Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe