In the photo Sugar Loaf Islands, Farallons, the combination of grand scale and lush detail draws the viewer into an arresting image in which a single jagged rock emerges from a smoky mist. Only upon closer inspection does one discover that the shiny pebbles at its base are actually about a hundred glistening seals who loll along the beach of a mammoth island. Throughout his 50-year career, Watkins traveled tirelessly under adverse conditions to remote sites, often by mule. He carried cumbersome equipment, including his giant camera, which was custom-made by a cabinetmaker. And he secured his hard-earned images on fragile glass-plate negatives. Watkins's adventuring laid the groundwork for his pioneering in the nascent art and technique of photography. His work commanded wonder and respect from large audiences on both coasts, and the sheer beauty of his pictures helped set a national policy of scenic conservation that preceded the present system of national parks.
Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception is a companion volume to the first large-scale exhibition to look at this photographer's work from a critical, art-historical perspective. The show originates at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through the year 2000. Produced using state-of-the-art tritone printing, this catalog includes 125 of Watkins's best images--stereo cards and multipart panoramic works among them. Accompanying the photographs are compelling and informative essays by Douglas Nickel, associate curator of photography at SFMOMA, and Maria Morris Hambourg, curator in charge of the Department of Photographs at the Met, as well as Peter E. Palmquist's notes on the plates, a list of selected references, and a chronology. --A.C. Smith
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Hardcover : 228 pages