An exhibition that you really don’t want to miss is currently on at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. The exhibit features photographs of Yosemite by Carleton Watkins. Ho Hum, you say. Yet some more pictures of Yosemite. Spare me.
But…these were taken in the 1860s. Watkins – and I have to say I had not heard of him before the exhibit – was a San Francisco-based photographer. He started in 1851 or so. His studio was on Montgomery Street but he traveled around. That was, of course, no trivial thing. He used a custom 18×22 inch glass negative. (Just think of the pixels in that!) For the Yosemite trip, he had to transport roughly a ton of equipment since the pictures had to be developed on-site in less than 10 minutes after taking the exposure. (Does that make the people who used the “collodion process” pixel peekers?)
The exhibit consists of three albums: Photographs of the Yosemite Valley (1861 and 1865–66), Photographs of the Pacific Coast (1862–76) and Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon (1867 and 1870). It is an outstanding exhibit and well worth the time and the trip – assuming you’re not a Stanford student. The exhibition runs through August 17. Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 to 5. Highly recommended.