Oi Polloi

Carleton Watkins

Published: Thu Jan 05 2012

Yosemite. Photograph by Carleton E. Watkins, circa 1865-1866.

From ‘The mammoth camera’ by Leo Hickman, published in Saturday’s Guardian:

During the summer of 1861, a 35-year-old photographer called Carleton Watkins strapped almost a tonne of camera equipment on to mules and rode the long, largely untravelled trail into California’s Yosemite Valley. Three years later, the 30 images he captured of the valley’s vertiginous ravines, cascading waterfalls and monumental trees had directly inspired Abraham Lincoln – more than 2,000 miles away in Washington DC and otherwise absorbed by the civil war – to sign the legislation needed to secure in perpetuity the wilderness “for public use, resort, and recreation”.

Roughly 100 years later the outdoors lifestyle and ideology of environmentalism was well established, with many classic west-coast brands (Sierra Designs and the like) flourishing in this period. Without pioneering image-makers like Carleton Watkins would this have been the case?

Read Leo Hickman’s full feature here.

More of Carleton Watkins’ amazing photographic record of Yosemite below (circa 1865-1866).

More info on Yosemite National Park and Carleton Watkins can be found here.