unknown, Carleton E. Watkins, with cane, during aftermath of earthquake, San Francisco, 1906
This is an incredible photo - out of focus, but it captures Watkins’ gait and the sense of urgency of the moment, like no formal portrait could. The box the man is carrying probably has a small number of Watkins’ negatives or prints. This photograph, taken on the street with multiple layers of action, represents the next 100 years of photography. The subject, the elderly pioneer of 19th century American photography, staggers away from the history he created, his archives on fire.
I was curious about the location - what street is this, what building is that on fire in the background? My guess as a long-time resident is the large street in the background is Market and that they are heading south of Market. But the opposite could be true. I emailed Steve Heselton of carletonwatkins.org. He points out that Watkins’ last studio may have been at 417 Montgomery or 1249 Market (where he rented photographic rooms).
I strongly recommend following and listening to the Modern Art Notes Podcast - this week’s episode is a long discussion of the recently released book “Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs.”