Pioneering photographer of American West to be discussed

Art historian Weston Naef discusses the work of a photographer who documented the American West in its last years of pristine beauty in a lecture at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, in Room 104 of the Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St.

Sponsored by the Bates College Museum of Art, the talk is open to the public at no cost. For more information, please call 207-786-6158.

Naef’s talk is titled Call to Witness: The Enigma of Carleton Watkins. Former curator of photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Naef will examine the life and images of Watkins, who photographed the West between 1858 and 1891 — one of the longest and most productive careers in 19th-century American photography.

Naef and co-author Christine Hult-Lewis recently released the book Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011). (“Mammoth” refers to the format in which Watkins shot: 18-by-22-inch glass-plate negatives.)

Watkins is celebrated for his images of San Francisco, the Pacific Coast, railroads, mines and lumber mills throughout the West. His photographs of Yosemite Valley were influential in Congress’ decision to create a national park there.

Organized by region, Naef and Hult-Lewis’ book comprises Watkins’ nearly 1,300 “mammoth” images. Most of them exist only in a single print, and until now, fewer than 300 had been reproduced or exhibited.

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