cover image Window on the West: The Frontier Photography of William Henry Jackson

Window on the West: The Frontier Photography of William Henry Jackson

Laurie Lawlor. Holiday House, $18.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1380-5

Although this dense volume offers a sweeping view of the rapidly changing American West between 1869 and 1893, it provides few insights into Jackson and his photography. The details of life in the West that made Lawlor's recent American Sisters: West Along the Wagon Road, 1852 so compelling are nearly absent here. In chronicling the work and career of the self-taught photographer and explorer who popularized images of the Western frontier, the author provides only sketchy biographical information. For example, Lawlor makes a vague reference to a ""broken heart"" that drove Jackson from his job working in a photography gallery to bullwack on the Oregon Trail; a few paragraphs later the author refers to a bride ""of less than one month"" whom Jackson leaves for his first Western photographic expedition, offering little more than the wife's name. Lengthy digressions on subjects as diverse as the Industrial Revolution, the history of photography and the effect of train travel on the frontier prove less interesting because they omit Jackson almost entirely. Jackson's dramatic black-and-white images capture the grandeur, scale and mystery of the West, but, except for a few anecdotal gems (including the story about a Jackson photo that inspired a poem by Longfellow), this volume will be utilized best as a research tool. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)