Carleton Watkins – Photographer (1829-1916)

mirror-lake-of-mt-watkinsCarleton Watkins (Born November 11, 1829 in Oneonta, NY) was one of the first to photograph Yosemite and the West. It was his photographs that were submitted by Galen Clark and Senator John Conness in support of the request to preserve Yosemite and lead to the Yosemite Grant in 1864. Later, he was employed by the state Geological Survey to document the work of Josiah Whitney. His work was widely recognized and won awards in San Francisco and as far away as Paris. He was known, mostly, for his stereoscopic images, which were widely distributed. He also made large 18×22 inch wet plate photos. Mt. Watkins is named after him as he was the first (or one of the first) to photograph it at Mirror Lake (My Image to the left captures the scene in 2002. His image can be see by clicking on the link).

Though Watkins won many awards, he was plagued with business problems. He began copyrighting his images in 1867 only after eastern firms began pirating his work. But still, he lost his studio in 1875 to J.J. Cook (after whom Cook’s Meadow is named), a creditor. He began rebuilding his inventory of negatives by revisiting and photographing Yosemite and other points in the west and sold them as his “New Series.” By 1890, with health problems and failing eyesight, his work was impacted. He would loose the shop and all his negatives in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He passed away June 23, 1916.