cover image Carleton E. Watkins

Carleton E. Watkins

Chronicle Books, Carleton Emmons Watkins. Chronicle Books, $75 (219pp) ISBN 978-0-938491-27-9

``If this business don't give us a living we will go and squat on some government land and raise spuds.'' This forlorn statement by Watkins (1829-1916), a pioneering photographer who began his career by chance as a commercial portraitist in Golden Shore, Calif., but later became celebrated for large-scale, exquisitely detailed Western landscapes, reflects the misfortunes of a strenuous, fruitful life. Frequently lugging as much as 2000 pounds of photographic equipment into California's Yosemite Valley, or parts of Utah and the Pacific Northwest, Watkins documented a wilderness then barely marked by human presence. Bankrupt by the late 1870s, and blind by the early 1900s, he lost everything he owned in a fire resulting from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. This majestic selection of 111 albumen prints, reproduced by laser technology and including 18 never published before, depicts severe, richly textured country: the church-like stillness of a valley stream; the gnarled ferocity of a stupendously large tree. Palmquist is the author of Carleton E. Watkins: Photographer of the American West. (Aug.)