The Screen of Nature

Early Photography of the West


California Museum of Photography

January 31 - April 4, 2009


Opening Reception

Saturday, January 31, 2009, 6pm - 10pm



One of the few great examples of the work of nineteenth-century California photographer Carleton Watkins that's not currently on view in the Getty Museum's exhibition of Western landscape photography is a folding screen that's in UCR/California Museum of Photography's collection. This is a decorative screen four panels long on which twenty-six Watkins mammoth-plate prints of Yosemite and related subjects were mounted in the late 1800s.

The primeval forests and mountain majesty of the West was itself a kind of decorative screen on which Americans projected their own dreams, which ranged from the adoration of nature to the exploitation of all natural resources. As a context for Watkins' work, this exhibition offers examples by other hands that show the range of attitudes toward nature that Western photographers had in the late nineteenth century.

Events in Focus