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Carleton Watkins

Text from Wikipedia

Watkins, Carleton E.
American, 1829-1916

Carleton E. Watkins (November 11, 1829-June 23, 1916) was a noted 19th century Californian photographer.

Carleton Emmons Watkins was born in Oneonta, upstate New York. He went to San Francisco during the gold rush, arriving in 1851. He traveled to California with Oneontan Collis Huntington, who later became one of the owners of the Central Pacific Railroad, which helped Watkins later in his career.

His interest in photography started as an aide in a San Francisco portrait studio, and started taking photographs of his own in 1861. He became interested in landscape photography and soon started making photographs of California mining scenes and of Yosemite Valley. He experimented with several new photographic techniques, and eventually favored his "Mammoth Camera," which used large glass plate negatives, and a stereographic camera. He became famous for his series of photographs and historic stereoviews of Yosemite Valley in the 1860s, and also created a variety images of California and Oregon in the 1870s and later.

Watkins purchased the 1860's Central Pacific Railroad construction stereoview negatives from CPRR official photographer Alfred A. Hart and continued their publication through the 1870's.

However Watkins was not a good businessman. He spent lavishly on his San Francisco studio and went deeply in debt. His photographs were auctioned, following a business setback, resulting in his photographs being published without credit by the new owner. Watkins also had problems of his photographs being reprinted without permission by Eastern companies and with other photographers rephotographing the exact scenes Watkins photographed.

In 1879, Watkins married a 22-year-old woman, Frances Sneade, and had two children.

Watkins began anew with his "New Series," which included a variety of subjects and formats, mostly related to California. However, he remained poor and his family lived for a time in an abandonded railroad boxcar. His eyesight begin to fail. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed Watkins's studio and negatives. In 1910 Watkins was committed to the Napa State Hospital for the Insane, where he died 6 years later.


 


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