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This photograph is entitled Scene in Marsh on Anacostia River, Washington, Capitol in Distance. About 1882. The photographer was John K. Hillers. This 1979 toned gelatin silver print was produced from the original glass plate negative. It was one of 191 photographs that comprised an exhibition in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The exhibition ran from November 15, 1979 through the fall of 1980. The exhibition was accompanied by the publication of all the photographs in a book entitled The American Image: Photographs from the Archives of the United States, 1860-1960 (Pantheon Books, New York, 1979).
The criteria for each photograph selected for the exhibition was that it be both visually arresting and historically interesting. This landscape photograph by John Hillers is among the acclaimed masterpieces of the art of photography. Like with other art forms, this photograph arouses our curiosity: Why is this photograph so special or unique? What was Mr. Hiller’s reason for taking the picture from this location? It may be that these questions are un-answererable. In the foreground, cows grazing in the wetlands; tents pitched to one side and permanent buildings on the other side. In the background, the majestic dome of the U.S. Capitol peeking above it all. Perhaps Mr. Hillers was trying to capture the evolution of the United States from its colonial roots to its emergence, in a few decades, to a global power?
-- description by Henry Henley