Carleton Watkins; Making the West American.

Author:Silverstein, Barry
Position:Book review

Tyler Green; CARLETON WATKINS; University of California Press (Nonfiction: Ecology & Environment) 34.95 ISBN: 9780520287983

Byline: Barry Silverstein

Carleton Watkins may not be a name known to contemporary artists and art critics, but his exceptional photographs of the American West, taken during the mid- to late-1800s, "did more to make the West a part of the United States" than any single American, writes critic/historian Tyler Green. This extensive biography of Watkins, complete with a wealth of black-and-white reproductions of his photographs, had to be painstakingly constructed from a wide variety of sources, since Watkins's own documentation was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Green's yeomanlike effort to tell the story of Watkins is rewarded by his own accidental discovery of a surprising fact: Green's great-great-grandfather, W. H. Lawrence, was apparently an investor who aided Watkins in reestablishing his career after a bank loan went bad. This coincidence notwithstanding, the story of how Watkins came to photograph landscapes in California, Oregon, and Utah is both fascinating and prophetic...

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