Carleton E. Watkins, North America, 1829-1916
View from Camp Grove, Yosemite, 1861
Image: 15 1/4 x 20 3/4 inches (38.74 x 52.71 cm)
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.245
Location: Not on view
Watkins has come to be recognized as the greatest photographer of the 19th-century American West. Born in upstate New York, Watkins moved to California during the Gold Rush. By 1858, he had established his own photography business in San Francisco. In 1861, he made the first of several visits to Yosemite, producing an extraordinary set of 30 mammoth-plate (22x18-inch) views. These prints were circulated back East and helped spur President Lincoln to sign legislation protecting the valley (leading the way to the National Parks system). Watkins was a master technician with a classically precise vision. His pictures are at once confident and understated: he conveys the majesty of this remarkable place without romanticizing it.