History of Photography

Introduction. History of Photography (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

A World History of Photography (by Naomi Rosenblum)

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991 (by Hans-Michael Koetzle)

Photographers' Dictionary.
(based on "20th Century Photography - Museum Ludwig Cologne")



Photographers' Dictionary

(based on "20th Century Photography-Museum Ludwig Cologne")




Alexander Gardner
(1821 – 1882)

Alexander Gardner was an American photographer. He is best known for his photographs of the American Civil War and his portraits of American President Abraham Lincoln.
Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1821. He became an apprentice silversmith jeweler at the age of fourteen. Gardner had a Calvinist upbringing and was influenced by the work of Robert Owen, Welsh socialist and father of the cooperative movement. By adulthood he desired to create a cooperative in the United States that would incorporate socialist values. In 1850, Gardner and others purchased land near Monona, Iowa, for this purpose, but Gardner never lived there, choosing to return to Scotland to raise more money. He stayed there until 1856, becoming owner and editor of the Glasgow Sentinel in 1851. Visiting The Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park, London, he saw the photography of American Mathew Brady, and thus began his interest in the subject.
Gardner and his family moved to the United States in 1856. Finding that many friends and family members at the cooperative he had helped to form were dead or dying of tuberculosis, he stayed in New York. He initiated contact with Brady and came to work for him, eventually managing Brady's Washington, D.C., gallery.
Unfortunately, the most famous of Gardner's work has been proven to be a fake. In 1961, Frederic Ray of the Civil War Times magazine compared several of Gardner's photos showing Confederate snipers and realized that the same body has been photographed in multiple locations. Apparently, Gardner was not satisfied with the subject matter as it was presented to him and dragged the body around to create his own version of reality. Ray's analysis was expanded on by the author William Frassanito in 1975.
Abraham Lincoln became an American President in the November, 1860 election, and along with his appointment came the threat of war. Gardner, being in Washington, was well-positioned for these events, and his popularity rose as a portrait photographer, capturing the visages of soldiers leaving for war.
Brady had had the idea to photograph the Civil War. Gardner's relationship with Allan Pinkerton (who was head of an intelligence operation that would become the Secret Service) was the key to communicating Brady's ideas to Lincoln. Pinkerton recommended Gardner for the position of chief photographer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Topographical Engineers. Following that short appointment, Gardner became a staff photographer under General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac. At this point, Gardner's management of Brady's gallery ended. The honorary rank of captain was bestowed upon Gardner, and he photographed the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, developing photos in his traveling darkroom.
Gardner worked for the photographer Mathew Brady from 1856 to 1862. According to a New York Times review, Gardner has often had his work misattributed to Brady, and despite his considerable output, historians have tended to give Gardner less than full recognition for his documentation of the Civil War.
Lincoln dismissed McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, and Gardner’s role as chief army photographer diminished. About this time, Gardner ended his working relationship with Brady, probably in part because of Brady's practice of attributing his employees' work as "Photographed by Brady". That winter, Gardner followed General Ambrose Burnside, photographing the Battle of Fredericksburg. Next, he followed General Joseph Hooker. In May 1863, Gardner and his brother James opened their own studio in Washington, D.C, hiring many of Brady's former staff. Gardner photographed the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863) and the Siege of Petersburg (June 1864–April 1865) during this time.
He published a two-volume work: Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War in 1866. Each volume contained 50 hand-mounted original prints. Not all photographs were Gardner's; he credited the negative producer and the positive print printer. As the employer, Gardner owned the work produced, like any modern day studio. The sketchbook contained work by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, James F. Gibson, John Reekie, William R. Pywell, James Gardner (his brother), John Wood, George N. Barnard, David Knox and David Woodbury among others. A century later, photographic analysis suggested that Gardner had manipulated the setting of at least one of his Civil War photos by moving a soldier's corpse and weapon into more dramatic positions.
Among his photographs of Abraham Lincoln were the last to be taken of the President, four days before his assassination. He also documented Lincoln's funeral, and photographed the conspirators involved (with John Wilkes Booth) in Lincoln's assassination. Gardner was the only photographer allowed at their execution by hanging, photographs of which would later be translated into woodcuts for publication in Harper's Weekly.
Gardner was commissioned to photograph Native Americans who came to Washington to discuss treaties; and he surveyed the proposed route of the Kansas Pacific railroad to the Pacific Ocean. Many of his photos were stereoscopic. After 1871, Gardner gave up photography and helped to found an insurance company. Gardner stayed in Washington until his death.

Middle bridge over Antietam Creek, September 1862


Lincoln and John Alexander McClernand, visiting the Antietam battlefield, 1862

Edward Spangler, a Conspirator, April, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Samuel Arnold, a Conspirator, April, 1865.
Albumcr. print. Library of Congress, Washington. D.C.


George A Atzerodt, a Conspirator, April, 1865.
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.


Lewis Payne, a Conspirator, in Sweater, Seated and Manacled, April, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Lewis Powell, conspirator to assassination, after arrest


General John F. Hartranft and Staff Responsible for Securing the Conspirators at the Arsenal.
 Left to Right: Capt. R. A. Watts, Lt. Col George W. Frederick, Lt. Col. William H. H. McCall, Lt. D. H. Geissinger,
Gen. Hartranft, unknown, Col. L. A. Dodd, Capt. Christian Rath, 1865. (Cracked Plate).
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Execution of the Conspirators: Scaffold Ready for Use and Crowd in Yard,
Seen from the Roof of the Arsenal, Washington, D.C, July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


The Four Condemned Conspirators (Mrs. Surratt, Payne, Herald, Atzerodt),
with Officers and Others on the Scaffold; Guards on the Wall, Washington, D.C., July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


General John F. Hartranft Reading the Death Warrant to the Conspirators on the Scaffold, Washington, D.C, July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Adjusting the Ropes for Hanging the Conspirators, Washington, D.C., July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Hanging at Washington Arsenal; Hooded Bodies of the Four Conspirators; Crowd Departing, Washington, D.C, July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.


Hanging Bodies of the Conspirators; Guards Only in Tard, Washington, D.C, July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Coffins and Open Graves Ready for the Conspirators' Bodies at Right of Scaffold, Washington, D.C., July 7, 1865.
Albumen print. Library' of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (5th July, 1863)


A Harvest of Death


Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg


A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Virginia


A sharpshooter's last sleep: Battle of Gettysburg, 1863.


Many Horses, a Teton Lakota, photographed in 1872


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