Inspiration at Yosemite

Authentic experience in a world cluttered with reproduction

Roger Minick, Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park (Sightseer series), 1980, dye coupler print, 38.1 x 43.18 cm, ©Roger Minick (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), a Seeing America video. Speakers: Elizabeth Gerber, LACMA and Dr. Beth Harris

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Minick, Woman with a Scarf

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Key points

  • Art played an important role in educating and encouraging the preservation of natural lands through the National Parks Service and have helped make places like Inspiration Point iconic landmarks. Roger Minick’s Woman with Scarf builds on a legacy of American photographs of majestic landscapes while also grounding this work in present-day tourism.
  • With her back to the viewer, this woman is part of a tradition of landscape painting that encourages viewers to imagine themselves before a sublime vista. As we appreciate the beauty of Inspiration Point, however, we are also drawn to her souvenir scarf and are reminded of the commodification that comes with tourism.
  • Minick believes that, even with modern conveniences and commercialization, the process of sightseeing remains meaningful and powerful. Watching people journey to famous landmarks, he reports a transformation that takes place as they arrive, not unlike a religious pilgrimage.

Go deeper

This photograph at LACMA

The artist’s website

Explore more photographs from Roger Minick’s Sightseer series

Take a video tour of Yosemite National Park

Learn about the history of road trips to and through Yosemite National Park

Explore primary sources with the Yosemite National Park archives

Listen to a podcast on the challenges facing National Parks

Learn more about 19th-century photographer Carlton Watkins

Learn about the role of art in the 1916 passage of the National Park Service Act

More to think about

Roger Minick’s quote about his photograph compares the sightseers at national parks to pilgrims, who experience a profound set of emotions, including a “universal sense of a shared past and present, and, with any luck, a shared future.” Have you visited a place that felt like a pilgrimage? Where did you go and why?

Today, more than ever, we document our lives with snapshots. Do you think that taking photographs helps people experience places and events, or does it keep them from being in the moment and experiencing the range of deeper emotions Minick refers to?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.