Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) is widely considered the greatest American photographer of the nineteenth century and arguably the most influential artist of his era. He is best known for his pictures of Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.
Carleton Watkins: Making the West American tells the story of Watkins’s influence on California, the West, photography and art. Watkins is best known for pictures of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove made just as the Civil War was beginning in the summer of 1861. They were exhibited in New York for the first time in 1862, as news of the Union’s disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg was landing in newspapers and while the Matthew Brady Studio’s horrific photographs of Antietam were on view. Watkins’s work tied the West to Northern cultural traditions and played a key role in pledging the once-wavering West to Union. Motivated by Watkins’s pictures, Congress would pass legislation, later signed by Abraham Lincoln, that preserved Yosemite as the prototypical “national park,” the first such act of landscape preservation in the world. Carleton Watkins: Making the West American includes the first revised history of the national park idea since pioneering environmental historian Hans Huth’s landmark 1948 “Yosemite: The Story of an Idea.”
Watkins’s photographs helped shape America’s (and the world’s) idea of the West, and helped make the West a full participant in the nation. His pictures of California, Oregon, and Nevada, as well as modern-day Washington, Utah, and Arizona, not only introduced entire landscapes to America but were important to the development of American business, finance, agriculture, government policy, and science. Watkins’s clients, customers, and friends were a veritable “who’s who” of America’s Gilded Age, and his connections with notable figures such as Collis P. Huntington, John and Jessie Benton Frémont, Eadweard Muybridge, Frederick Billings, John Muir, Albert Bierstadt, and Asa Gray reveal how the Gilded Age helped make today’s America.
Carleton Watkins: Making the West American in the media
- Wall Street Journal, “What to Give: History Books,” by Andrew R. Graybill, November 15, 2018.
- Aperture, “Carleton Watkins and the Image of Manifest Destiny,” by Maika Pollack, November 13, 2018.
- The Daily Plinth, Tyler Green guest edits The Vault, November 11, 2018.
- Hyperallergic, Tyler Green on the “Art Movements” podcast with Hrag Vartanian, November 9, 2018.
- Conscientious, “Writing about Photography: Three New Books,” by Jörg M. Colberg, November 5, 2018.
- New York Times, “One Museum’s 19th Century Photo Sale Seems to Be the Met’s Gain,” by Peter Libbey, November 1, 2018.
- San Francisco Chronicle, Review: “Carleton Watkins: Making the West American,” by Tyler Green, by David D’Arcy, October 31, 2018.
- The Modern Art Notes Podcast, Eleanor Harvey interviews Tyler Green, October 25, 2018.
- San Francisco Chronicle, Carleton Watkins, photographer of the West, the focus of Tyler Green’s new book, by Emma Heath, October 22, 2018.
- Los Angeles Times, Review: ‘Carleton Watkins: Making the West American’ sheds light on the photographer who artfully captured early California, by Christopher Knight, September 26, 2018.
- Foreword Reviews, “Carleton Watkins: Making the West American,” by Barry Silverstein, September/October, 2018.
- Places Journal, Yosemite and the Future of the National Park, by Tyler Green, December, 2017.
- Zócalo Public Square, The Epic Effort to Map the West, by Tyler Green, August, 2016.