An eclectic website about Women, Christianity,
History, Culture and the Arts--
and anything else that comes to mind.
A gold watch represents the temporal disorientation of retirement.
When I was younger, history was about the big things—leaders
and wars and the rise and fall of empires. Since then, we’ve begun
to look more closely at individuals, at technology and at the
developments they bring into focus.
One example is photography. This website looks at U.S. history
through the eyes of four photographers who both captured and
influenced major moments (and movements) in that history.
The first is Mathew Brady (1822-1896) who, with a crew of
photographers, produced a photographic record of the Civil War
which involves and enlightens us today.
Just two decades after Louis Daguerre granted rights to his method
of making photographs to the French people, photography was
common in the U.S. That was when Abraham Lincoln enlisted
Brady to document the Civil War (1861-65).
Brady had learned photography when he was in his 20s. He
owned a studio in New York City, where he photographed famous
Americans. As with most photographers, Brady was a
preservationist. "From the first," he said, "I regarded myself as
under obligation to my country to preserve the faces of its historic
men and mothers."
Brady and his crew, including his Washington Gallery director
Alexander Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan, George Barnard and
others, exposed 7,000 negatives. They used the complicated
collodion-on-glass (wet-plate) negatives, difficult even in a studio,
but even more so in the field.
Brady and his crew worked from specially-outfitted carriages to
photograph and print pictures on the battlefield. The wagons cost
about $100,000 each, which Brady provided at his own expense.
Almost killed at the Battle of Bull Run, Brady was lost for three
days and finally made his way to Washington, nearly starved.
When the Civil War broke out, people expected it to be a short
and glorious affair, but it lasted four years and killed more U.S.
military people than any other war before or since.
Brady's photographs helped change attitudes toward the war much
as television did a hundred years later when it brought the images of
death and destruction into people's living rooms and changed
attitudes about the Vietnam War.
Ken Burns has said that his epic history of the war would have
been impossible without Brady's collection.
Other articles in this website include Alfred Stieglitz, who
photographed the rise of New York City from a village to a city of
skyscrapers as he elevated photography to an art form in the early
1900s; Dorothea Lange, who captured the personal impact of the
Great Depression and the internship of Japanese Americans during
World War II; and Ansel Adams, who promoted conservation of
the beauties of nature and the national park system through his
wonderful photos of Yosemite.
I'd love to hear your response to this website, the photographers
and their impact on the American history they documented and
influenced. Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mathew Brady (left), Brady's last photo
of Abraham Lincoln (right), and photo
of the bloody battlefield of Antietam
The Lens of History