Carleton Watkins in Yosemite


Yosemite Valley (c. 1865).

The Getty Museum recently published a large and expensive ($195) volume collecting all the surviving photographs by one of the pioneers of landscape photography, Carleton Watkins (1829–1916). The most important of Watkins’ many photos of California in the mid-19th century are those taken in the Yosemite Valley, a series of views which helped persuade Abraham Lincoln to preserve the area as a national park. The pictures here are from the Watkins collection at the Library of Congress where many of the images can be downloaded as huge (200mb) tiffs. The LoC also has a number of stereograph views. The quality of these pictures is quite stunning when you consider that the photographic medium was only about thirty years old. To capture many of these views Watkins had to cart a bulky glass-plate camera up and down mountain trails.

Carleton Watkins, The Complete Mammoth Photographs edited by Weston Naef & Christine Hult-Lewis can be ordered direct from the Getty Museum. There’s also an earlier study by Weston Naef, Carleton Watkins in Yosemite.


Half Dome, Yosemite Valley (c. 1865).


Cathedral Rock, Yosemite Valley (c. 1865).


Front view, Three Brothers, Yosemite (c. 1865).

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