It was a mid-afternoon in February of 2016 when the seeds of this cataloging
endeavor were sown.
Glenn Mason and I had just jointly purchased the wonderful San Francisco
mammoth plate panorama included here and were discussing how amazing it
was. Then the thought came that we both have other images – maybe not as
imposing but as interesting and maybe even more aesthetically and/or
historically important. It was at that moment we decided to offer the panorama
as just one image in a Catalog of Western Photography. It took longer to
assemble than we thought, but Glenn has done a fine job in documenting a
wide variety of images from our collections and inventories. Also, I want to
make sure the reader knows that I am deeply indebted to Glenn for being the
real author of this effort.
Selecting the images to include herein was not made just on the basis of their
monetary value or rarity but also on their above mentioned historic and
aesthetic value. The focus is photography of the American West with the
majority of images depicting places, activities and scenes of the West Coast,
Alaska and Hawaii. The time span is from the California Gold Rush through the
turn of the 20th century. Subjects include mining, railroads, cities and towns,
Native Americans and the wars against them, and the wonderful scenery that
was meant to awe the viewer.
The photographic technologies represented include western examples of
many of the earliest photo processes – from daguerreotypes, ambrotypes,
and salt prints to albumen and silver gelatin prints – in a variety of sizes –
from the mammoth plates produced from glass plate negatives taken by
oversized cameras that were such a burden for early photographers to carry
to the small CDVs that were meant for family albums. Of special interest are
the large photo panoramas illustrating western cities and commerce.
We included a section of photos advertising and documenting several
western photographers and their photography businesses and output,
including a Muybridge “Running Horse” photograph that arguably is the
precursor to motion pictures. Represented photographers include a virtual
“who’s who” of western photography: Watkins, Muybridge, Jackson,
Lawrence & Houseworth, Taber, Haynes, Heller, Bradley & Rulofson, and the
list goes on.
Some of my personal favorites in this catalog include the Vigilance
Committee and Portsmouth Square salt prints of 1850s San Francisco, the city
panorama photos, the Yosemite mammoth plate by Jackson, and the odd
portrait of a messianic wanderer.
Glenn and I hope you enjoy viewing these images and finding things not
previously seen along with some old favorites. Also, we hope that this catalog,
in addition to being a source of beautiful and interesting pictures, will result in
filling voids in many collections.