Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yosemite Valley, 1861

Via the Guardian, the Getty Museum collection of photographs of the Yosemite Valley from 1861 taken by Carleton Watkins. Tip of the ears to Leo Hickman and the Getty Museum


dhogaza said...

Hetch Hetchy before and after.

Jeffrey Davis said...

After the Grand Canyon was so awe inspiring, we figured that nothing else was going to have a similar effect. Yosemite surprised us.

Anonymous said...

Winnebagomouse offers:
Interesting analysis of the impact of Watkins' pictures on U.S. environmentalism: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15295030009388395

Jim Bouldin said...

Awesome. This made my day for sure. And a terrific piece by Hickman. I knew he had lost most of his collection in the fire but didn't know about his subsequent commitment to Napa.

Anyone who has examined Watkins' early CA photos knows what a master he was. I've looked at much of his work in various libraries (and Muybridge's and Weed's) including all of their Yosmite and Sierran works, but also in Tahoe, Shasta, Lassen and other places. Watkins was the first landscape photography master of this country. His compositions were works of art, without equal, and they are also among the earliest images of ecological conditions in the far west, being used in recent re-photography studies by George Gruell, Tom Vale and others.

To those of us lucky enough to call this pinnacle of the American landscape our backyard, playground and office, Watkins has long been appreciated--and rivaled only by the images of Ansel Adams and the descriptions of Muir, King and Brewer--in conveying the awesomeness of a landscape that goes not just beyond words, but even beyond his images.

Anonymous said...

This reminded me of one of the best ever documentary series on teev.
"National Parks: America's Best Idea"


If you can get it on DVD I'd strongly recommend it. Brilliant!


Anonymous said...

There is a book full of then-and-now photographs, some from the Custer Expedition, of the Black Hills of South Dakota and surrounds. Not as towering as Yosemite, but still interesting.

Jim Bouldin said...

Also, the view in the first picture is quite similar to what the first white men into the "Yo-ham-itee" Valley saw, as they approached it from the south in an impending storm, in mid-March, 1851. Lafayette Bunnell*, physician and member of the Mariposa Battalion, in pursuit of the Yosemites ("Uzumati"), described his first view:

"None but those who have visited this most wonderful valley, can even imagine the feelings with which I looked upon the view that was there presented. The grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley,—light as gossamer—and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion."

* Bunnell, L.H. 1892. Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, which led to that event. http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/discovery_of_the_yosemite/ (a classic read btw)

Brian said...

Great pics, Eli and dhogaza - I'm really tempted to get Hetch Hetchy back as a second Yosemite for aesthetic reasons. There'd be an environmental cost to doing it though, and huge headaches for those of us who rely on the water. Not impossible, but very difficult.

Jim Bouldin said...

A panorama of Hetch Hetchy very similar to that one, taken in 1911, hangs above the bar at the Evergreen Inn, just outside the entrance station. I've examined it at length.