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Clouds Rest, Valley of the Yosemite
Albumen silver print
16 7/8 x 21 7/8 ins
George Eastman Museum
Muybridge's views of Yosemite demonstate young America's nature worship and nationalism. Muybridge did not include people; his pictures are of unadulterated wilderness, giving visual form to the notion that God created this abundance for a new chosen people. Here was paradise regained, the proof of Manifest Destiny that it was God's wish for Americans to transfigure the uncultivated land into a useful Garden of Eden. The dark side of this concept can be seen in Muybridge's Modoc War (1872-1873) stereocards, which pictured racial stereotypes and were produced for a white audience who used them as proof that their prejudices could be documented by the camera.
The Modoc Indians lived in northern California and southwest Oregon. They violently clashed with early white settlers and were forced onto a reservation in 1864. Their chief, Captain Jack, led a band of rebels back to California, triggering the Modoc War of 1872-1873 that finally divided the tribe, who now live mainly in Oregon.