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100.090 Early Photographers

In the mid-nineteenth century, as the Northwest was poised on the brink of a mass westward migration, a few visionary artists were inspired to begin capturing the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge on film.  Their work helped create a mystique surrounding the gorge even before the first roads penetrated the chasm.  ...  These and other prominent photographers introduced the world to a romantic vision of the gorge even before most Portland residents had seen firsthand the scenic glories of the gorge. (Durbin 16-17)

In the Columbia River Gorge, interest for exploration expanded in part because of the building of the Columbia River Highway, which began in 1913.  Recreational pursuits in northwest Oregon have continued to become focused and energized ever since.  First came turn-of-the-century pioneer photographers and explorer geologists of the Gorge, men like Benjamin Gifford, G. M. Weister, the Kister brothers, and Ira A. Williams who reached places that are extremely difficult to access even today. (Olson 1)

Carleton E. Watkins

Photographer Carleton E. Watkins arrived from San Francisco in the 1860s and traveled by steamship up and down the Columbia.  Using a small stereo camera and another camera capable of making glass plate negatives, he made some of the earliest images of the gorge, which are still considered among the greatest landscape photographs ever made.  (Durbin 17)

    ...a mammoth plate camera, the kind Watkins hauled by mule cart from San Francisco and Sacramento into Yosemite Valley to make his photographs. All told, his equipment weighed close to a ton.
    In photography's early days, a 1-to-1 ratio described the relationship between a negative and a printed photograph. Watkins wanted his landscapes to rival paintings, which meant they had to be big. Really, really big. His mammoth photographs, some of which you can see framed in the background, are nearly 2 feet on the longest side.

Knight, Christopher. "Carleton Watkins' really big picture" Los Angeles Times. October 13, 2008. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2008/10/carleton-watkin.html

Sarah Hull Ladd & Lily White

In the Early 1900s, photographers Sarah Hull Ladd and Lily White, members of wealthy Portland families, lived aboard a large houseboat in the Columbia and made photographs of gorge landscapes filled with soft light, clouds, and dreamy atmosphere.  The women also photographed Indians who lived in the gorge.  Their photos, used in travel brochures and magazines, attracted some of the first waves of tourists.  (Durbin 17)

Benjamin Gifford

Benjamin Gifford, an accomplished photographer, lived in The Dalles in 1897.  He took photos of the gorge for railroad murals that were displayed in train stations across the country. (Durbin 17)

Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc. Western Set No. 3

Western Set No. 3 Columbia Highway
Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc. Western Set No. 3 Columbia Highway. Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc, c. 1920.
Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3524669

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Columbia River Highway Set (1)
Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc. Columbia River Highway Set. Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc, c. 1920.
Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3524670
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Columbia River Highway Set (2)
Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc. Columbia River Highway Set. Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc, c. 1920.
Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3524670
CLICK TO ENLARGE

I've been wrong before, but this looks to me like the old Mt. Hood Highway somewhere around Parkdale rather than the Columbia River Highway...  Placed in the collection between Mitchell Point and Inspiration Point, I know where to look for a view like this on the HCRH, but no place comes to mind...  Until I can verify the location of this photo, I am going to place it here.

Mt. Hood, Oregon, perpetually snowcapped, elevation 11,225 ft
Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc. Mt. Hood, Oregon, Perpetually Snowcapped, Elevation 11,225 Ft. Sawyer Scenic Photos, Inc, c. 1920.
Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3524688

CLICK HERE to continue exploring the highway.
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