Bill [Wittliff] had his Nikon with him and was taking pictures as he always did, but I was too focused on the suspended moment in front of us to remark upon his camera work. I had no idea at that point what kind of pictures he was taking. He was shooting with an ordinary single lens reflex camera on black and white Tri-X film. There was already an official unit photographer to take publicity stills on the set, and I just assumed that Bill, as the writer/producer of the movie, was making a private photographic record.
In fact, he was making art. One of the exposures he took that day ended up as a photograph "Crossing the Rio Grande" which is one of the signature images of this book. It is printed, like the other photographs, in archaic sepia tones, and every time I look at it—which is every day, since a print of it hangs on my office wall—it sets off a little mind-shiver, not just calling me back to that magic-hour river crossing, but to someplace deeper and harder to reach, to a vanished time that is both wholly concocted and wholly real.
—Author Steve Harrigan, from the Introduction to A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove
In addition to serving as co-executive producer and screenwriter for Lonesome Dove, Bill Wittliff shot thousands of images during the film's production and the Wittliff Collections houses more than 200 of these fine art photographs. Wittliff took these images, not as production stills, but with an artist’s eye. Described by TEXAS MONTHLY magazine as “landscapes of Texas myth... [that] whisk us back not just to 1988 but to the late 1870s,” the Lonesome Dove images are reminiscent of the nineteenth-century cowboy photographs by Erwin Smith and the western paintings of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. Each photograph stands alone as an evocative work of art, while as a whole they provide a stunning visual summary of the entire miniseries.
Published in 2007 by the University of Texas Press, A Book of Photographs From Lonesome Dove is Wittliff’s third and most recent monograph. The book has been a great success selling almost 25,000 copies in the first six months and winning the 2008 Will Rogers Medallion Award presented to outstanding books of or about Western U.S. literature. The book may be purchased from the Collections' gift shop.
Over 50 Lonesome Dove images are available as a traveling exhibition and several of the photographs are on permanent view in the Lonesome Dove Exhibition Room.