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Google Places and Platypie

Continuing in the Footsteps of Timothy O’Sullivan

May 21, 2012

Sully, our bon vivant collie, so many of you know and love is actually named for Timothy O’Sullivan, a photographer, who, as part of two US Government surveys in the years from 1868-1874, traveled about the American West in a horse-drawn wagon - photographing the western landscape. He used a large view camera and glass plates that he  actually developed in his wagon. Prior to these frontier trips, he worked as an assistant to Matthew Brady documenting and creating some of the most iconic images of The Civil War.

From the beginning of our travels in a motorhome back in the 70s we always wanted to have a mobile darkroom. For a while during the 80s and 90s, we even set up a dark room in BigBe’s1 shower and developed and printed some black and white photographs. The experience gave us so much respect for O’Sullivan and what he must have gone through with his glass plates and chemicals in the desert.

As part of our travels in the western United States we decided to visit and retake some of the photographs that O’Sullivan created back in the 1860s and 70s.

Thanks to our computers we now use our digital darkroom for everything. Much easier than an enlarger and all those nasty chemicals splashing about.

I got off to a bit of a slow start on the project by spraining and fracturing my ankle right in front of the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe... our first subject of his. It was beautiful in the afternoon light, but I’m not sure it was worth it. After hobbling around and yelping for a month I finally got x-rays.... I am now wearing a lovely air-cast, and will be in it until sometime in June. Oh, Joy.

San Miguel Chapel: Left - O'Sullivan (moMa); Right - Ours

Do you see an insane woman in this picture?

Beautiful Canyon de Chelly was our next "O’Sullivan" destination. Once I got used to swinging the cast around, we were ready to continue the quest. To reach the Anasazi White House Pueblo Ruins2, there was a one and a quarter mile hike 600 feet down to the bottom of the canyon. Against Bernie’s protests, I decided to try it with my cast on. Having a cast and attempting the decent was almost like having Sully with me. Everyone I met was so friendly and encouraging.

"My brother and I will be happy to carry you out if you don’t make it." 

"Would you like a Milky Way?"

"What are you smuggling in that thing?"

Canyon de Chelly: Left - O'Sullivan (Wikipedia) Right - Ours

The slow, hard descent was worth every step of it when I finally reached the site. The red canyon walls rose all around and above me. A  blue, blue sky overhead was full of soft clouds, whose shadows made the walls dance with golden waves of light and blue darkness. The beautiful green cottonwood trees along the water’s edge...and the soft blowing and swirling of the "cotton" made for a pretty damn magical experience. I spun around in a circle, well actually, in my case, hobbled and felt a part of this place so grand, yet intimate... a place that brought sadness of a greater memory to my heart.

Can you find the insane man in this picture?

We will return.

Exploring Canyon de Chelly

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1 BigBe, the mobile darkroom: The darkroom was located in the shower just above where the dogs, Ansel (Adams) and Georgia (O’Keefe), are sitting.

2 The Anasazi are a people who disappeared many hundreds of years ago - long before the Navajo came to live in this canyon. Now it is shared by the Navaho and the Park Service.

Note: Timothy O’Sullivan lived a short and fantastic life. There are several books on Amazon of his work.

Wow, these pictures are so beautiful.  I enjoyed them so much because I know I will never get to see in person.  Thanks!  You all have fun.



Sully will go down in history for his AWESOMENESS


What an awesome adventure, thanks for sharing it with us with your beautiful pictures! xox


I have also been there, riding through the canyon in an open jeep, holding on for dear life.  I almost ruptured my liver!  Such longing! 


Bernie -

Now you can understand the fascination your grandfather had for that part of this great country ----- enjoy, but both stay safe.


Mom & Dad

Oh, this is SO Matthew Brady! Don't pretend you don't want to wander into something like "the Bloody Lane"!


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