Carleton Watkins                    Man Without a Face


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The image was made in late 1867 or early 1868[9] when the photographer was approaching forty years old and had been residing in San Francisco or its environs for nearly twenty years.  

          The identity of the man seated next to Watkins is unknown and the implied meaning of the word, "Shunshine" remains a mystery.  The choice of a nonsense word in his own handwriting establishes Watkins as someone who was sensitive to language and could use words and pictures playfully.  The identity of the camera operator is likewise unknown.  Even though Watkins did not operate the camera, the picture should be considered a self-portrait. 

          Compounding the mystery is the fact that none of the Spring Valley Water Works mammoth-plate photographs, that were reportedly made at the same time as the stereographs[10] were located during research for CMP.

          A half-dozen years would pass between the making of "Shunshine" and an untitled series of four images that we call "Camera Man" [Figs. 9, 10, 11, 12].[11]  We see here a man who can be identified as Watkins through the same type of analysis that leads to the "Shunshine" identification.[12]  The bony facial structure and lean physique match what we know of Watkins's appearance, but more relevant to an association with Watkins are the implications of his imaginative costume, which consists of a hat in the form of a pretend camera and a suit with its every square inch covered with mounted photographs, the majority of them being portraits.  The costume was created for a special occasion but there is no clue in the album what was being celebrated.    

          The series of "Camera Man" images represent a mystery within a puzzle, with the puzzle being the context in which the costume pictures are preserved.  They are housed in a unique album (Loewentheil Family Collection, New York, hereafter

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[9] Stereoviews nos. 950-960 are dated to March, 1868.

[10]www. Watkins Old Series, nos. 900-925

[11] Low resolution files only are presently available, thus small size here.

[12] Will Dunaway in Carleton Watkins-Spring Valley Water Works.