Yosemite Falls

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882–1966)


Image/Sheet: 40.6 x 32 cm (16 x 12 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, platinum and gum bichromate combination print

Not On View


Americas, Photography



Coburn’s images of the American West, although inspired by the pioneering photographers of California such as Eadweard Muybridge and Carleton Watkins, abandon the documentary purpose of his predecessors. His Yosemite Falls is a Pictorialist vision of nature influenced by theories about harmony and tone learned from his teacher, Arthur Wesley Dow. Yosemite Falls is an impression, not a description, of lyrical beauty. The platinum process, combined with the painterly gum bichromate technique, produces a range of tones that is broad as well as deep: the velvety blackness of the surrounding trees frames the gray zones of the rocky escarpment, and the tonal progression culminates in the luminous white passage of the falls, softened almost to the point of abstraction by a long exposure.


Thackrey and Robertson, San Francisco, CA; purchased May 1981.

Credit Line

Sophie M. Friedman Fund