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<EM>The first view of the valley</EM> by Carleton Watkins

Curator Lissa Mitchell talks about this dramatic photograph


The first view of the valley by Carleton Watkins
<P>This recording was created for Te Papa’s in-gallery audio tour.</P> <P>Transcript:</P> <P><EM>Our artist in focus this season is American photographer, Carleton Watkins, one of the most highly acclaimed 19th-century photographers. Curator of historical photography, Lissa Mitchell, talks to us about these extraordinary large-format photographs.</EM></P> <P><STRONG>Lissa Mitchell</STRONG></P> <P>Steep slopes drop down into a seemingly bottomless chasm. This is Yosemite National Park, in California.</P> <P>150 years after it was taken, this image is still awe-inspiring. But it is also remarkable to consider what it took to actually achieve shots like this one.</P> <P>In Carleton Watkins’ time, there was no means of enlarging a photograph from a negative. The negative for this image, and all the images you see in this room, had to be the same size as the final print.</P> <P>These giant negatives, known as ‘mammoth plates’, were made of glass, so they couldn’t be rolled up into a canister like more modern film. They were heavy and fragile.</P> <P>Watkins and his team had to carry these giant plates into the wilderness. They also carried other, smaller negatives, used for making three-dimensional stereo views. Add to this a heavy camera, and a travelling darkroom tent.</P> <P>Picture the photographer and his mules making his way through this wilderness landscape, coming across this vista, and framing this shot. It must have given him quite a sense of accomplishment.</P> <P><EM>For the next track, look for the headphone symbol on the wall diagonally opposite.</EM><BR></P>

More media

The first view of the valley, Yosemite, from the Mariposa Trail

Carleton E. Watkins, The first view of the valley, Yosemite, from the Mariposa Trail, circa 1865, albumen silver print
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz