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Carvalho’s Journey

Wednesday, November 18 @ 6:00PM

Speakers: Steve Rivo, filmmaker
Robert Shlaer, daguerreotypist & author
Stephen Trimble, author & photographer

In the 1850s, the pressure was on to find a suitable route for a transcontinental railroad. With the fierce regional passions that would lead to the Civil War, the 38th parallel was seen as a compromise, but it had never been surveyed. In 1853 explorers John Charles Frémont and John Williams Gunnison led expeditions to map a 38th parallel route and test its suitability. Artists went with them to document the terrain. We’ll explore the amazing stories of one such artist, Frémont’s daguerreotypist Solomon Carvalho. And we will touch on the work of topographic artist Richard Kern, who accompanied the Gunnison-Beckwith expedition.

Film screening: Carvalho’s Journey. The film will be available for streaming online one week before the presentation. A link and password will be emailed to everyone who registers for the event.

Here is an excerpt from the film’s website:
A real life 19th-century American western adventure story, Carvalho’s Journey tells the extraordinary story of Solomon Nunes Carvalho (1815-1897), an observant Sephardic Jew born in Charleston, South Carolina, and his life as a groundbreaking explorer and artist. In 1853, traveling with famed explorer John Frémont’s Fifth Westward Expedition, Carvalho became one of the first photographers to document the sweeping vistas and treacherous terrain of the far American West. Carvalho, a portrait painter who had never saddled his own horse, survived grueling conditions and lack of food along the 2400 mile journey from New York City through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and California. Carvalho’s experience as a Jew on the western trail was unprecedented, and his experience–and his writing about it–grants a clear window into the inter-ethnic cultural exchanges that were commonplace in this period in American history. Traveling alongside mountain men, pioneers, Native Americans, and Mormons, Carvalho produced beautiful art: daguerreotypes that became the lens through which the world experienced the American West. The film interweaves stunning HD digital and 16mm film landscape cinematography, rare 19th-Century photographs and artwork, Carvalho’s own surviving paintings and daguerreotypes, and interviews with scholars and artists, including modern day daguerreotypist Robert Shlaer who recreates Carvalho’s original daguerreotypes on location.

Steve Rivo is a documentary filmmaker, currently living in New York City.
His biographical sketch and filmography are on IMDB

Robert Shlaer
Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Frémont’s Last Expedition Through the Rockies Museum of New Mexico Press, (2000)
Richard Kern’s Far West Sketches: A Visual History of the 1853 Gunnison Expedition (To be published in December, University of Utah Press, 2020)
Robert Shlaer’s biography can be found here in his alumni magazine.

Stephen Trimble is a writer and photographer who lives on the 38th parallel in Torrey, Utah. You can read his bio here. In 2019, he edited The Capitol Reef Reader–which includes Carvalho’s story and an excerpt from Bob Shlaer’s book–and places Carvalho’s adventure in context within the full history of this little known national park.