"Throughout the nineteenth century, the drive to explore and conquer the American West was evocatively captured in lush photographic imagery. The convergence of photography's invention with western expansion has left a rich legacy of visual materials that document and comment upon the vast spaces, mysterious features, and "exotic" peoples of the trans-Mississippi territory. The Great Wide Open focuses on concepts of the "panoramic", or the wide-angle view, tracing how this specific form of visual representation amplified the idea of the American West as a supposedly virgin and sparsely populated land of endless resources, and an ideal landscape for American enterprise." "Covering topics ranging from settlement to tourism and environmental change, The Great Wide Open examines myths of transition from uncivilized vastness to civilized order, the ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, and the creation of new narratives as well as the substantiation of old ones. Forty plates of panoramic photographs of the American West, dating from the 1850s to the present day - including work by Eadweard Muybridge, E.O. Goldbeck, Carleton E. Watkins, and, among contemporary photographers, Mark Klett, Catherine Opie, Karen Halverson, and Gus Foster - chart the mythologization of the American Dream."--Jacket.