Podcast

Carleton Watkins and Photography’s Romance with the American West

How do you tell the story of an artist whose archive was destroyed? Tyler Green’s new book focuses on a major figure in the early history of photography.

Carleton Watkins, “Yosemite Valley, California” ca. 1865 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

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.

This, and more in the current episode of our weekly Art Movements podcast.

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