Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

This thesis experience has given me  new perspective on how much hard work, detail and artistry goes into mapping history.

I’ve been following The Gettysburg Daily since starting on this endeavor and their work deserves recognition.

A recent series on the Devil’s Den, highlights the importance of art from the Civil War being used to increase the understanding of the battle and battlefield at Gettysburg.

The two licensed battlefield guides, Garry Adelman and Tim Smith, educate in 12 videos, using historical photography and their own analysis of the land, how the area was used during the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as later, after the Civil War.


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Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner was born in Scotland on October 17, 1821.  His family moved to Glasgow, Scotland when he was a teenager and there be learned about jewelry and held an apprenticeship.  He and his brother moved to the Iowa, USA in 1850, purchased land and started a small community of Scottish immigrants.  Gardner returned to Scotland to entice others to move to the newly found community and create more equity in the land.  Once back in Scotland, Gardner purchased the Glasgow Sentinel (a weekly distributed newspaper) and doubled the subscription rate. 

In 1851 Gardner attended the Great Exhibition, a trade show/world’s fair that took place in Hyde Park.  Gardner was intrigued by Mathew Brady’s photography and found the process of developing photographs exhilarating.

Gardner moved his family (mother, wife, and two children) to New York in 1856 and pursued his interest in photography getting a job with Mathew Brady

Gardner learned quickly and had a knack for photography and the science behind taking a quality picture.  Brady placed Gardner in charge of his Washington gallery and  in 1861 Gardner traveled with Brady and Harper’s Weekly, Alfred Waud to capture Bull Run.  Gardner maintained his wartime photography position and traveled with Brady’s troop of photographers from battle to battle, understanding the importance of documenting the events.

During his four year’s in the fields of the Civil War, Gardner was given an honorary title of Captain by General George McClellen that allowed him access to the battle of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.  During this time Gardner would send the photographs back to Brady and Brady would display the pictures in his gallery under the name ‘Brady.’  Thus, many people forget that there was more than one photographer on the battlefield and it was Brady’s troop that were responsible for the photographs.  Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook

Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it. – BRADY’S PHOTOGRAPHS; Pictures of the Dead at Antietam New York Times, October 20, 1862

Years on the battlefield allows Gardner to capture many riveting moments of Union and Confederate strife.  In 1866 he published a two-volume book entitled “Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War” (1861-1865) that contained 100 visual images of the bloody war.  The book was the first released of its kind and did not garner much public support.  Brady recognized Gardner’s efforts by creating and crediting a gallery for Alexander Gardner. 

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Civil War Times magazine has delivered factual Civil War articles to enthusiasts since 1962.  In the December 2010 publication, Civil War Times (CWT) delved into the truth behind Civil War photographs in an article that shows and explains the inaccuracy of pictorial references by one CW photographer.

Thomas C. Roche photographed the aftermath of Fort Mahone April 3, 1865 when Union assaults took Confederate lines down in battle.  “He was eager to document for the first time the Confederate fortifications that had withstood Union attackers for all of 10 months” (Substitute for a Corpse).

The article goes on to note that Roche and his assistant went above and beyond the placing weaponry around deceased bodies but actually added a man into the scene.

Roche wanted a sensational image and told his assistant to ‘play dead’ laying still, faced turned from the lens, next to a Confederate, dead, soldier. The answer lies in an image captured later that same day or the next, after Roche had continued on into Petersburg.  In this photo, captioned by the Library of Congress “Petersburg, Virginia; view in rear of Dunlop’s house, Boiling Brook Street,” we see that our black “corpse” is still very much alive, and wearing the same vest, plaid pants and slouchy boots we saw before (Substitute for a Corpse).

Examine the below photographs all taken by Thomas C. Roche on April 3, 1863 – can you spot the inaccuracies?

Photograph 1:  Depicts dead Rebel soldier in the foreground and rubber pile behind him.  Thomas Roche’s Caption: “A Rebel soldier killed in the Rebel trenches before Petersburgh [sic].  The spots and marks on his face are blood issuing from his mouth and nose.  The wound is in the head, caused by a fragment of shell.”

Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photograph 2:  Here we view the same Rebel soldier but in a closer frame.  We see there has been an addition to the photograph.  His dress informs the photographer that he was an artillery man based on the ‘gunner’s haversack.’  It was his duty to run ammunition from the magazine to the cannons in the front line.  To capture his position, Roche peppered the photograph with a sponge used to tamp down the powder and shell inside the cannon.  This was an addition to inform the viewing audience.

Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photograph 3:  Taken from prospective of pictures 1 and 2, this photograph shows another body next to the artilleryman.  The photograph also shows a horse and carriage (what could have been Roche’s).  The photograph still is focused on the foreground body but hints at action in the background.  Note: the man in the backgrounds face is turned away from the camera and appears to be a black man wearing civilian clothing.
Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photographer Thomas C. Roche Fort Mahone April 3, 1865

Photograph 4:  Petersburg, Virginia. View in rear of Dunlop’s house, Bolling Brook Street

Taken one-two days after April 3, 1865 Fort Mahone photo shoot of death toll and destruction.  The same man who is lying dead in the background is now viewed in an unrelated shot wearing the same clothing.

Thomas C. Roche Petersburg, VA Dunlop's House

Thomas C. Roche Petersburg, VA Dunlop's House

 photograph 5:  Zoomed picture of Man
Photograph of Man

Zoomed picture of Dunlop's House - Man in Question


Civil War Times  Substitute for a Corpse,  David Lowe and Philip Shiman


Library of Congress

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How are the works of Mathew Brady relevant to today’s historical renderings of the Civil War? 

It’s true that not all photography accurately captured the action of battle, usually showing the aftermath of a fight was safer, easier, and put less stress on the equipment.  Most of the photographs depict the dead, moved closer to each other to create a visually impactful piece, or enhanced with weaponry, a sought after commodity that wouldn’t be left with the dead.  Yet, Brady captured the faces, uniforms, encampments, and way of life of the soldiers of the Civil War, as an extremely important historical reference.  Painters, historians, movie makers, and the general public understand the way of life during the Civil War because of the painstaking photo documentation of Brady and his team.

How does it relate?

Dale Gallon surrounded by sketches and photographs of the Civil War

Dale Gallon uses photographs as a second source, relying heavily on first hand accounts penned in journal entries, letters, and documents but he then consults photography.  He approaches photos with caution, looking for inaccuracy first and then observing the subtle details, how a uniform wrinkles, how tall the soldiers were, what the horses looked like after being in battle for days.  A photo, as a secondary resource helps provide visual ques that written documents do not contain.  The marriage of first hand accounts and photographic depictions are key in formulating an accurate painting.

The Silver Screen?

Ken Burn’s The Civil War was largely formed around the historical photographs of Mathew Brady.  Ken Burn’s PBS website represents this important photographic documentation with three interactive displays for users.  Visit Images of the Civil War and design your own movie, explore photographs under a lens of discovery, and browse through thousands of images of the Civil War.

Fair Oaks, VA – Lt. Washington, a Confederate Prisoner with Capt. Custer

Archival images played an essential role in the creation of The Civil War. Throughout the film, Ken Burns uses these images to draw us into the story, showing us the people, places and events captured by Civil War photographers’ glass-plate negatives. – Ken Burns The Civil War

Learn more about the process of photography in Brady’s Era from preparing the plate to making the exposure.   Slideshow

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Mathew Brady was one of the first photographers to capture the perils of the Civil War, starting with the Battle of Bull Run in 1861.  Brady was born in 1823 in Warren County, New York.  The son of Irish immigrants, he mastered the craft of taking photographs and developing plates with precision.  He photographed the Battle of Bull Run and started a successful business that employed photographers who also captured the bullets of the Civil War.

Mathew Brady Timeline

Relate It!

Brady got his start in photography under the tutelage of daguerreotypist Samuel F.B. Morse.  Realizing that he had a talent for photography, he opened a gallery in New York City shortly after learning the craft.  Brady understood the importance of capturing figureheads, politicians, events, and interesting people realizing their historical relevance.  He was the first photographer to capture famous people in the United States and felt a moral obligation to capture history for future generations.  The father of photojournalism, Brady is quoted saying, A spirit in my feed said go, and I went.  His first encounter of Civil War photography was at the Battle of Bull Run.   This turned out to be a very real introduction to the dangers and perils of war.  Brady got lost for three days, disoriented, and almost starved to death during the confusion of Bull Run.  He ended up in Washington, DC and became the foreman of Civil War photography.

Mathew Brady with Union Army, 1862

Brady hired  Alexander Gardner, James Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, William Pywell, George N. Barnard, Thomas C. Roche, and seventeen other men to photograph battles taking place during the Civil War.  He invested over $100,000.00 of his own money to fuel the efforts, sending wagons equip with dark rooms, equipment, and materials needed to create over 10,000 plates.

Brady’s efforts were tireless in capturing the historical event in our nation’s history.  He passed away underappreciated, alone, and financially destitute.

No one will ever know what they cost me; some of them almost cost me my life. – M. Brady

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