William Henry Jackson
[Photographer, b. 1843, Keesville, New York, d. 1942, New York.]
Portrait photography never had any charms for me, so I sought my subjects from the house-tops, and finally from the hill-tops and about the surrounding country; the taste strengthening as my successes became greater in proportion to the failures.
[The building of the transcontinental railway] was something truly earth-shaking and, whether or not there had been a dime in it for me, sooner or later I would have been out on the grade with my cameras.
Since 1873, I have been back four or five times. I have used the best cameras and the most sensitive emulsions on the market. I have snapped my shutter, morning, noon and afternoon. I have never come close to matching those first plates. (On photographing The Mountain of the Holy Cross)
After setting up and focusing my camera at the bottom of the gorge, I would prepare a plate, back the holder with wet blotting paper, then slip and slide and tumble down to my camera and make the exposure. After making my picture, I had to climb to the top carrying the exposed plate wrapped in a moist towel. With Dixon to help, cleaning and washing the plates, I succeeded in repeating the procedure four or five times. The end of the day found us exhausted but very proud; and we had reason to be pleased with ourselves, for not a single one of our plates had dried out before being developed.
And if any work that I have done should have value beyond my own lifetime, I believe it will be the happy labors of the decade 1869-1878.