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Carleton Watkins' Photos Show American West In 3-D

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Before Ansel Adams stunned the country with his photographs of the American West, Carleton E. Watkins was creating impressive 3-D images of California and the Pacific Northwest. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Watkins' photography of Yosemite inspired Congress and President Lincoln to preserve the valley, saving it for the future national park system.

Watkins traveled to the west as a young man and was introduced to photography by chance in San Francisco when he filled in at a photography studio. A practical photographer, Watkins worked for land and mining interests and then the California State Geological Survey before opening his own gallery.

Using a method called stereoscopy, Watkins' prints are of two nearly identical images that, when viewed through a binocular device, trick the eye in to seeing a three dimensional image. Or, you know, you can make them into a GIF.

All photos courtesy of Carleton Watkins/Library of Congress.

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