Carleton E. Watkins
Pohono, Bridal Veil, 900 Feet, Yosemite, 1861

Carleton Watkins became nationally renowned for the spectacular series of mammoth-plate photographs he made of Yosemite Valley in 1861. On that trip, and on his seven subsequent visits to the valley, Watkins brought with him an immense, custom-made camera that was capable of exposing 18-by-22-inch glass plates. Though unwieldy, particularly because they had to be sensitized and processed in the field, these mammoth-plate negatives allowed Watkins to capture the vastness and grandeur of Yosemite in exceptional detail.

In the 19th century, Yosemite was often seen as a foil for San Francisco, an Edenic alternative to the dirty and congested city. Watkins’s majestic pictures helped convince Abraham Lincoln to sign the Yosemite Bill in 1864, making the valley the first area set aside by the government for protection from development.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Pohono, Bridal Veil, 900 Feet, Yosemite
Artist name
Carleton E. Watkins
Date created
albumen print
15 7/8 in. x 20 3/4 in. (40.32 cm x 52.71 cm)
Date Acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Gary Sokol and Christine Murray, and the Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Barbara and Gerson Bakar, Doris and Donald Fisher, Evelyn D. Haas, Mimi and Peter Haas, and Elaine McKeon
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

Other Works by Carleton E. Watkins

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