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Carleton E. Watkins

Cascade, Nevada Falls, Yosemite, California
about 1861
albumen print
15 5/8 x 20 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Mammoth views of mountains, cascades, and undisturbed scenery fed the sophisticated Eastern public’s passion to see what the West was really like. This photograph was probably made on Watkins’s first widely acclaimed trip to Yosemite in 1861. The blur of the rapidly moving water reminds us that in these early days of photography, even such a master as Carleton Watkins could not still the water’s motion.