Carlton Watkins in Arizona

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    Mark Sawyer

    Carlton Watkins (1829-1916) is one of the best known and most respected photographers of the 19th century. From the early 1850’s to 1890, he travelled the American West, documenting the landscape with wet plate collodion glass plate negatives, printed on albumen photographic paper. Although best known for his mammoth wet plate photography in Yosemite, he brought his cameras to Arizona in 1880, capturing images of Tucson, Yuma, Tombstone, and the surrounding deserts.

    For those interested in Watkins equipment, his mammoth (18×22-inch) camera was custom built by a San Francisco cabinet maker. He’s also reported to have used 8×10, 9×13, 14×21, whole-plate, and stereo formats. Lenses he’s known to have used are a Grubb-C Landscape Lens (a 15-inch achromatic doublet rated for 8×10), a Harrison & Schnitzer 16-inch Globe lens, (rated for 19×23), and an unknown lens made by Dallmeyer.

    In 2007, WPHS member Robert Suomala wrote an article on Watkins for our newsletter. It’s still available online at

    Below are some of Watkins’s images from our state, all in mammoth wet plate, all from his 1880 trip.

    Carlton Watkins 6
    Tucson, 1880, from Sentinel Peak, (aka “A” Mountain)

    Carlton Watkins 5
    “Palo Verde, Arizona”

    Carlton Watkins 1
    San Xavier Mission

    Carlton Watkins 2
    San Xavier Mission

    Carlton Watkins 3
    San Xavier Mission, Façade

    Carlton Watkins 4
    San Xavier Mission, Interior

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by  Mark Sawyer.
    • This topic was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by  Mark Sawyer.

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