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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 77: Fiske Photography

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77. FISKE, George. Album of Yosemite photographs. 24 leaves (approximately 17.5 x 24.2 cm; 7 x 10 inches) containing 47 mounted albumen photographs (each approximately 11 x 19 cm; 4-1/4 x 7-1/2 inches). N.p., ca. 1880-1890s. Oblong 4to, period brown cloth photo album, embossed and gilt-lettered, photos mounted to cards bound into covers with string through linen mounting tabs.

All photographs are numbered and signed by Fiske in the lower corners. Two are copyrighted 1884. Contemporary ink manuscript captions added below each image.

With printed ticket of Howard Album, patented January 28, [18]89, on rear pastedown and George Fiske’s wood-engraved ticket (by Durbin Van Vleck) on verso of last card. Gilt lettering fading, a few images faded, but overall fine with most of the photographs in excellent impressions. In a green clamshell case with gilt-lettered green leather spine label.

    This handsome album by the renowned Yosemite photographer contains important examples demonstrating the wide-ranging beauty of the Yosemite region and Fiske’s consummate skill in capturing that beauty.

Besides the expected icons, such as El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls, the images include several of such subjects as a female member of the Digger tribe,

a stagecoach in full career,

and a nosebleed image of a couple standing precariously on Overhanging Rock.

Fiske (1835-1918) was the first photographer to live full-time in the Yosemite Valley. His work had a great influence on Ansel Adams, who admired him above any of the earlier photographers. Regrettably, in a series of disastrous fires, almost all of Fiske’s negatives were destroyed, leaving prints such as these as the only realistic means of acquiring his original images.

Cf. Currey & Kruska (pp. 113-116: “Talented pioneer photographer”) and Beaumont Newhall’s preface in George Fiske, Yosemite Photographer, by Paul Hickman and Terence Pitts (Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland Press, in cooperation with the Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona, 1980).

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