Today's Inspiration- In Honor of Memorial Day...

by - Monday, May 26, 2014

I thought I would share some photographs by Alexander Gardner and others of the Civil War. Considering how fresh the medium was (those dark images from Niecpe that are considered the first photographs were in 1827), these pictures out in the field are extraordinary. He carried a very large camera that would have been heavy and hard to manage, and he traveled to Antietam with a mobile dark room and staff.

Alexander Gardner, The Mobile Darkroom, 1867- Uploaded by Donna Harn to Pinterest
 Because the shutter speed on these early cameras were so slow, they couldn't effectively capture motion, so the majority of these earliest war images are either stiff portraits or shockingly frank photographs of the cost of war. I mean, these things are hard to look at, to warn you. Every image is so stiff that it seems spooky and dead, but it can help us to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made over time. Gardner's photographs of the Battle of Antietam (as well as Gettysburg to a lesser degree) changed how the American people looked at war, because they made them come face to face with the violence which we still prefer to leave abstract. Here are a few photographs from

Alexander Gardner, "A Lone Grave, on Battlefield of Antietam," 1862- from npr.org
Alexander Gardner, "Civil War-Antietam: Confederate Soldiers Lay Dead by a Fence on the Hagerstown Road," 1862- from old-picture.com

Alexander Gardner, "Signal Tower Overlooking Antietam" 1862- from  lcweb2.loc.gov

This final one is from Gettysburg. It is a staple of surveys of the history of photography, but it gets me every time.

Alexander Gardner, "Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter- Battle of Gettysburg," 1863- from civilwarsaga.com

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