The  Mammoth Plate
in the Asia~Pacific Region      c.1853 - c.1880

biographies photo-web

mammoth plate

Mammoth plates are extra-large glass negative plates (up to 30 by 40 inches). Despite their inconvenience and fragility, the plates became something of a craze in the mid-nineteenth century. As enlarging negatives was impractical and largely unsatisfactory until the 1880s, mammoth plates were the only way to obtain very large images. The most serious users of these plates were the western landscape photographers, who found them desirable for capturing the immensity and stillness of their subjects.

national parks, establishment of

Within a single generation in the early 19th century, the abundance and variety of wildlife and plant life in America, particularly in the West, began to change. Essayists argued for preservation; scientists aroused public interest in the enormous variety of animals and plants and natural environments in America. The expression of this cultural concern was accompanied by something even more convincing---the landscape photographs of the West.

After the Civil War, easterners, surrounded by environmental destruction, were treated to photographs of the West by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O'Sullivan, Eadweard Muybridge, and many others. These impressive works, many of them made during geological expeditions, conveyed to Congress the beauty of the West. Recognizing that uncurtailed "progress" could destroy natural wonders such as Yellowstone, Congress passed the National Parks Act in 1872, which set aside thousands of acres of parklands and provided for administrative structures to manage them.

landscape photographers

In the 1860s government groups and railway companies began to hire photographers to accompany expeditions sent to survey the American West. The photographers were charged with bringing back accurate views of the largely unexplored lands. Although given scientific assignments, photographers such as Timothy O'Sullivan, Andrew J. Russell, William H. Jackson, Eadweard Muybridge, and Carleton Watkins made photographs admired today as great artistic achievements.

These photographers worked under difficult conditions. They traveled with portable darkrooms, supplies of chemicals ill adapted to climate change, and fragile glass plates (in many cases they were extremely large "mammoth" plates). Despite these drawbacks, they made many views that preserve a grand yet fragile land long since overdeveloped and overrun.

ref: Smithsonian American Art Museum


Holtermann and Bayliss

George Freeman (Adelaide) [GN]

Freeman Bros (NSW) [GN]

Charles Nettleton (unsure of any mammoth)


Dr Murray [Peter Marshall] [Sotherbys] [NGA]

Borne and Shephard [NGA]

Linius Tripe [NGA]


Francis Chit [NLA] [online]

Hong Kong

Charles Leander Weed (USA 1824-1903)


Charles Leander Weed (USA 1824-1903)


Charles Leander Weed (USA 1824-1903)

Ponting [GN]

Beato (not sure whether any Mammoth)

USA - west coast

Charles Leander Weed (USA 1824-1903) [Palmquist]

Calton Watkins [GN]

Edward Muybridge [NGA] [GN]

William Henry Jackson[GN]



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