Mammoth-Plate Photograph by Jackson
"The Greatest of All Western Photographers" - William H. Goetzmann
A wonderful original mammoth-plate photograph by the renowned western landscape photographer, William H. Jackson. A prolific photographer of the West, Jackson gained fame for photographic views made while he was a part of the famous 1870 U.S. Geological Survey team under Ferdinand V. Hayden, which explored vast swaths of Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming, including parts of Yellowstone.
[Jackson] recounted that the Hayden Expedition was 'priceless, it gave me a career."... Like a child thrown into a pool, Jackson learned to swim as a landscape photographer by suddenly encountering inaccessible terrain he might never have approached otherwise" - Naef, Era of Exploration: the Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860-1885, page 221.
The present large-scale photograph is fine view of the Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak was likely made circa 1880, by which time Jackson had fully formed his own aesthetic perspective:
Jackson was artistically on his own between 1873 and 1875, a time when the goals and structure of the Hayden Survey were themselves changing. During these years he traveled in a small party over great distances to photograph exactly what he felt was worthy, and this independence is evident in the photographs - Naef, Era of Exploration: the Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860-1885, page 224.
Pater B. Hales has pointed out the influence of the painter Thomas Moran on Jackson's aesthetics.
[Jackson's] success grew also from his capacity to acquire and adapt already accepted visual styles and thematic messages about the nature of landscape from a wide variety of broad-based sources. During the [Hayden] Survey years Jackson had depended upon his own "taste"...influenced by his direct acquaintances and friends - Hayden, Gifford, Moran, Stevenson, Eliot, and the scientists with whom he lived in close contact while working.... [Thomas] Moran's influence was probably greater during these years than it had been during the Survey... Moran's masterful presentation of a mass-market picturesque...now applied directly to Jackson's needs... - Hales, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape, page 156.
In 1879, Jackson established a commercial photography studio in Denver, pioneering the sale of Western landscape photographs. Jackson usually made the mammoth-plate format prints himself:
Commissioned pictures were usually made by assitants, with the result monitored by Jackson to guarantee that they conformed to the Jackson style and were up to the photographer's standards...When clients were particularly influential, or when mammoth-plates (18-by-22-inch) views were ordered, Jackson himself usually made the photographs. - Hales, page 157.
The present Jackson photograph is rare in the market. Similar Jackson photographs are held at New York Public and SFMOMA, but with a different number and type style in the caption. William Henry Jackson, Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak, ca. 1880 · SFMOMA