This gorge is gorg: Carleton Watkins at the Columbia River


Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon by Carleton Watkins
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 20"x24" ($600)


Sometimes you don’t wanna tackle your Tuesday to-do list. Sometimes you don’t need to look at the Tues news. Sometimes, you don’t even have to spend your Tuesday in this century. Sometimes, Tuesdays are for time travel, and our new Carleton Watkins edition is your ticket to the Oregonian wilderness of the 1860s.

Watkins’ pioneering images of the Pacific Northwest—including today’s edition release, Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon—were snapped circa 1867. At the time, his work in the Yosemite Valley had gained him notoriety, but the landscape photographer set out to expand his repertoire and explore new terrain further north. Capturing the Columbia River Gorge posed some unique challenges. This scenery was hard-won. Though railroads and highways would eventually service the area, Watkins’ journey preceded them by several years, meaning the trailblazing photographer had to travel by steamships, barges, and portage railroads. And he didn’t travel light: in tow were his massive 18”x22” mammoth-plate camera, his stereoscope camera, hundreds of glass negative plates, and the equipment and flammable chemicals needed to develop the negatives.

Schlepping like his life depended on it didn’t stop Watkins from conquering new photographic frontiers. Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon represents one of at least 59 mammoth-plate images he produced on his expedition—the first known images to comprehensively document the mid-Columbia River. 150 years after the fact, Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon is widely considered a standout image from Watkins’ Columbia River Gorge work. It’s easy to see why. Taken from the Washington side of the Columbia River, this photograph captures the monumental stature of the mountains flanking the gorge, their steep contours and rugged textures juxtaposed with the serene surface of the water. Watkins’ assistant sits in the canoe for scale, a reminder of humankind’s smallness in these surroundings. It’s a tremendous sight, the sort of spacious, perspective-inducing image that’ll leave a lasting impression.

Watkins believed anyone who saw the beauty in his images should be able to own them, and so do we. Our affordable, limited-edition Watkins prints are the best way we can think of to respect his legacy and make his work more available. As Weston Naef—scholar, author, and the Curator Emeritus of the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs—once wrote of our Watkins editions, “Watkins would have been proud”.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200

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