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Tyler Green may be best known as the journalist and art writer behind the Modern Art Notes podcast, but for the last six years, he’s also been working on a major book about a photographer who helped establish the sublime visual record of the American West for viewers around the world.
In his new book, Carleton Watkins: Making the West American, Green writes a very readable story about a figure who blended art and science, helped establish photography as an art, and whose images helped galvanize a citizenry that would eventually establish a national park system around the country. Green managed all of this despite being faced with a researchers nightmare: Watkins’s archive was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Then there’s the twist, as Green discusses a very personal connection to Watkins that he discovered in the midst of his research. It’s a fascinating tale that shows us history is often more present than we know.
A special thanks to Mark Pritchard of Warp Records for providing the music for this episode.