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Photography in the Civil War

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Kristen Cianci

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of Photography in the Civil War

Photography in the Civil War
The American Civil War was the first major conflict that was extensively photographed.
The earliest known war photos are of the Mexican War, but nothing as intense as the Civil War.
People at home could view the carnage on the battlefield.
"-turning people removed from the fighting into eye witnesses of the carnage."
"because those scars had been photographed, they were real, in a way that no drawing could be."
These photographers would venture int0 the battlefield alongside the soldiers and live in tents beside them.
It was not rare for photographers to die on assignment.
For example, Robert Capa and Larry Burrows
The most well-known photographer from this war was Mathew Brady, who worked closely with Timothy O'Sullivan and Alexander Gardner.
Mathew Brady:
"My greatest
aim has been
to advance
the art of photography and to make it what
I think I have, a great and truthful medium of history."
Timothy O'Sullivan
As an apprentice for Brady, and later, Gardner, O'Sullivan took many great war photos and of vast landscapes. He also ventured in to Panama in search of a possible canal route.
Born in New York of 1840, and died in 1882
Alexander Gardner
Photography Was Invented
Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre used
chemistry and light to create permanent images through the experiments and information he gathered while working together with Nicéphore Niépce. The first breakthrough was in 1829 but were not shown to anyone until 1838-1839.
During the Civil War, they used a process called the wet-plate photographic process.
Born in Paisley, Scotland of 1821, Gardner was dispatched by Brady after he saw Brady's photographs in The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, 1851.
Born in Warren County, New York of
1822, and died in 1896. Throughout his lifetime, he had established himself as the father of photojournalism.
Brady took the most amount of important historical photos, and became Abraham Lincoln's favorite. He was almost killed at
Bull Run, VA and was lost for 3 days.
Despite all of his success, he ended up
poor for the end of his life.
The Wet-Plate Process
collodion is applied to the glass to make it more light-sensitive
the plate is immersed in silver nitrate in a dark room
the camera's cap is removed for 2-3 seconds, exposing it to light and imprinting the image
the cap is replaced, and the plate is taken to the dark room and developed in pyrogallic acid
sodium thiosulfate fixes the photograph
the photo is coated in varnish
Civil War Photography
Photography was a difficult, time-consuming process, and the equipment was heavy and difficult to carry.
The chemicals had to be mixed by hand, and collodion was made from ethyl ether and acedic/sulfuric acid.
Impacts on the War
-Photographs gave families a keepsake of their fallen soldiers
-Images of political leaders helped drive thier cause
-Officers' portraits were a morale booster
The Change on Society
-Horrors were brought out into the open
-The concept of privacy shifts
-"provided graphic evidence of the hellishness of combat."
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