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Take the Scenic Route to Carleton Watkins’ “Cypress Point, Monterey”

Cypress Point, Monterey by Carleton Watkins
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) 

Cypress Point, Monterey is perched over the Pacific off California’s rugged central coast. It can be found along 17-Mile Drive, the famously picturesque path that passes through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. The road hugs the coastline, supplying stunning view after stunning view. Water encounters the cliffs with gusto, spraying sea mist. Nearby fauna is bathed in cool fog. It’s no surprise Carleton Watkins found inspiration in this remarkably scenic landscape.

Though he was best known for producing some of the first photographs of the Yosemite Valley (leading to its federal preservation as a protected wilderness area) Watkins was no stranger to other Cali scenery. The legendary artist created numerous images of California’s cities and coasts while he lived and worked there from the 1850s until his death in 1916.

Center stage in today’s release is a Monterey cypress, or cupressus macrocarpa, with its telltale flattened treetop combed down by coastal winds. Native to this particular region in California, the tree now grows naturally in only two small areas on the Monterey peninsula: the granite headlands of Point Lobos, and Cypress Point (our starring locale). Those two relict populations are all that’s left of what was once an extensive forest.

Watkins worked with a mammoth-plate camera and 18"x22" glass plates, employing the wet-collodion technique to create rich, detailed images like today’s edition. To capture this shot, he used a long exposure time, giving the ocean a placid, creamy quality, and imbuing the image overall with a dreamlike vibe. In reality, the waves regularly crash against the jagged rocks on the shore, but this photograph conveys something far more meditative—rather a Watkins trope.

It makes sense that Watkins’ California work would have a serene, almost romantic aura. After all, it was produced by a New York boy who transplanted to San Francisco with a pipe dream of striking gold, landing on photography as a field of study when that first fantasy failed to materialize. California was a ripe resource for those with an active imagination and a penchant for exploration. It seems likely that the Golden State always held some kind of magic for Watkins, and his work conveys that. Collect this edition and it'll cast the same spell on your walls.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200