[First View of the Valley]

Object Details


[First View of the Valley]


Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)




Yosemite, California, United States (Place created)


about 1866


Albumen silver print


41.1 x 52.4 cm (16 3/16 x 20 5/8 in.)

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Carleton Watkins positioned his camera in what appears to be midair, capturing the breathtaking effect of the view of Yosemite Valley on first-time visitors. The wonder and amazement led one spectator to proclaim, ''I can tell you nothing of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery--I could not speak, my breath was gone . . . .It is truly the great work of God." Such a remark reveals that Watkins's photographs confirmed the sense of wonder celebrated in America's grand wilderness.

Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851 - 1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Carleton Watkins: Western Landscape and the Classical Vision (March 13 to May 27, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 13 to May 27, 1990
Pioneers of Landscape Photography: Carleton Watkins and Gustave Le Gray (September 1 to November 7, 1993)
  • Städtische Galerie im Städelsches Kunstinstitut (Frankfurt), September 1 to November 7, 1993
Carleton Watkins: From Where the View Looked Best (February 15 to June 4, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 15 to June 4, 2000
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (September 24, 2006 to January 21, 2007)
  • Museum of the American West (Los Angeles), September 24, 2006 to January 21, 2007
Dialogue Among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California (October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009

Fraenkel Gallery and Peter E. Palmquist. Carleton E. Watkins: Photographs, 1861-1874 (San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery in association with Bedford Arts, 1989) plate 1.

Naef, Weston J. Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age, 1851-1889, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1989) figure 2.

Naef, Weston J. Carleton Watkins in Yosemite (Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008) pl. 5

Education Resources

Education Resource




Historical Witness, Social Messaging

Additional works of art related to the themes and topics of the curriculum.

Land Use and Lawmaking - Intermediate

Lesson in which students discuss principles of transcendentalism and create photographic essays depicting an environmental issue.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science


Long-Term Unit