Carleton E Watkins


Artist Biography:

Carleton Watkins is the most famous early western photographer. He found international fame for his award winning photographs of Yosemite, San Francisco, the Pacific coast and subjects throughout the western states. Watkins is best known for his mammoth plate photographs although he actually published the majority of his work as stereo views. They represent a comprehensive look into California and the West from the 1860s through to the 1890s. Carleton Watkins was born in Oneonta, New York. Lured by the opportunities of the California gold rush, he travelled to California with fellow Oneontan Collis Huntington (later to become one of the "Big Four" owners of the Central Pacific Railroad). Watkins was employed by Huntington in Sacramento delivering supplies to the mining operations. After the great Sacramento city fire in 1852 Watkins set out on his own to be a professional photographer. He would work as an "outdoor man" or camera operator for several established photographers including Robert Vance for the years ahead until in 1861 Watkins travelled to Yosemite equipped with a mammoth-plate camera. He returned with dozens of stereoscopic negatives and later Yosemite images, which established him as a master of landscape photography. The prints helped influence the U.S. Congress to pass legislation protecting Yosemite Valley. Watkins continued to travel widely, making photographic excursions to Northern California, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as Utah.

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