“Born in upstate New York, Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) ventured west in 1849 to strike it rich. But instead of prospecting for gold, Watkins developed a talent for photography—a medium invented only 22 years before. He documented the remote Pacific Coast in the 1860s and 1870s, capturing its vast scale and spirit with a custom-built camera that created ‘mammoth’ 18 x 22-inch glass-plate negatives. In June 1864, his stunning photographs of Yosemite’s valley, waterfalls and peaks proved instrumental in convincing President Abraham Lincoln and the 38th U.S. Congress to pass the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, legislation that preserved the land for public use and set a precedent for America’s National Park System.
“As the nation celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents ‘Carleton Watkins: The Stanford Albums,’ an exhibition featuring more than 80 original mammoth prints from three unique albums of Watkins’s work: ‘Photographs of the Yosemite Valley’ (1861 and 1865–66), ‘Photographs of the Pacific Coast’ (1862–76), and ‘Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon’ (1867 and 1870). The exhibition opened yesterday and will be on view through August 17, 2014.” – Courtesy Cantor Arts Center