Skip to Main Content

Latin America and the Caribbean in Photographs at the Library of Congress

Photographic Surveys

Researchers in the Prints & Photographs Division have access to the historical and contemporary photographic surveys of Latin America listed chronologically below. Three depict the US-Mexico border. Please note that some photographic surveys have not yet been fully organized and described. These generally have "unprocessed" in their call number. To access these unprocessed surveys, please submit an online request form at least 14 days in advance to visiting the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.

Darién Expeditions by John Moran & Timothy H. O’Sullivan (Colombia & Panama)

Between 1870 and 1873, Commander Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. of the US Navy led multiple expeditions to the Isthmus of Darién, a region in northern Colombia (now southern Panama). Hoping to survey a suitable location for an interoceanic canal, Selfridge brought along Timothy H. O’Sullivan (1840-1882), an American Civil War photographer who had since surveyed land west of the Mississippi River. For his second expedition between December of 1870 and June of 1871, Selfridge hired John Moran (1831-1903), an English-born American landscape photographer. Photos of Darién by O’Sullivan and Moran are in multiple collections at the Library of Congress. [Do a link to search results from 1980:037, rather than possibly incomplete listing?]

Photographic Views by D.R. Payne (Mexico & the United States)

In the early 1890s, the International Boundary Commission, a binational organization created by the United States government and the Mexican government, tasked D.R. (Daniel Robert) Payne (ca. 1847-1931) with photographing the US-Mexican border as established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase of 1853-1854. Payne photographed both the land and the obelisks that were erected to demarcate the boundary.

Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition by Kermit Roosevelt (Brazil)

Between 1913 and 1914, Brazilian explorer Colonel Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon and former US President Theodore Roosevelt led an expedition to survey the Rio da Dúvida or River of Doubt (now Rio Roosevelt) in the Amazon. Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943), accompanied them and took photos of the expedition. Despite this visual documentation, many people doubted that Theodore Roosevelt had reached the river. In 1926, American-born English Commander G.M. (George Miller) Dyott (1883-1972) launched a second expedition to the Rio da Dúvida and verified Roosevelt’s claims. Visual materials from the G.M. Dyott papers contain photos depicting the 1926 expedition.

Tracing the Line by Peter Goin (Mexico & the United States)

Wisconsin native Peter Goin (b.1951) is a Foundation Professor of Art in Photography and Videography at the University of Nevada, Reno. His photography depicts altered landscapes. In 1987, he published a photographic survey of the US-Mexico border entitled Tracing the Line. The survey contains 66 black-and-white photographs with commentary.

Monuments by David Taylor (Mexico & the United States)

Between 2007 and 2015, David Taylor (b.1965), who is a Professor of Art at the University of Arizona, photographed the border separating the United States and Mexico. He produced Monuments, a visual survey that contains 276 photographs. Similar to the photos by D.R. (Daniel Robert) Payne (ca. 1847-1931) but taken over 100 years later, the pictures by Taylor each show a boundary marker and its surroundings.