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Carleton E. Watkins

Yosemite Falls
about 1865-1866, printed after 1875
albumen print
12 x 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

Watkins made this view of Yosemite Falls as audience demand increased for iconic images of the wild, unspoiled West. Hundreds of these prints hung on parlor walls or were presented in large, beautifully designed albums. This image is an example of Watkins’s ability to adapt painterly landscape devices to the increasingly sophisticated art of photography. He used the foreground trees to frame the picturesque falls and allowed light and atmospheric effects to take center stage.