History of Photography


History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 4





ROGER FENTON (collection)
MATHEW BRADY (collection)









Documentation: Daily Life and Ethnic Customs

Curiosity about the everyday lives of the world's peoples predates the invention of photography, but as industrial nations involved themselves in imperialist adventures around the globe, the camera emerged as a most apt tool for satisfying the thirst for sociological information that emerged. Between 1855 and about 1880, collodion/albumen technology made it possible for resolute photographers, both amateur and professional, to follow their countrymen to Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Near East in order to record, besides scenery, aspects of daily life and ethnic customs. Though under the impression that these documentations were "objective"—that is, truthful records of what exists—those behind the cameras were guided in their selection and treatment of material both by a sense of being emissaries of a "higher civilization,"7 as John Thomson called it, and by the desire for commercial success. Nevertheless, despite assumptions of superiority, the close observation of indigenous customs altered ethnocentrie attitudes and in some cases even evoked admiration for elements of so-called "backward" cultures among photographers.

India under British rule provided the greatest opportunity to satisfy the desire for this kind of imagery on the part of occupying residents and folks back home. Among those portraying native life in the areas where Britons maintained interests in the jute, tea, and teak industries were Felice Beato (a naturalized British subject of Italian birth whose biography has recently emerged), Samuel Bourne (whose catalog listings included "Groups of Native Characters'), and John Burke, who worked in the Punjab and in Kashmir before recording the course of the Second Afghan War. The now little-known William Johnson, a founder of the Bombay Photographic Society, published his views of Indian teachers, vendors, and workers periodically in 1856 in The Indian Amateur's Photographic Album and then in a single volume containing 61 photographs. Group of Cotton Carders (pi. no. 191) has a mannered quality common to many such staged indoor scenes of the time, whereas the out-of-doors settings that served as the locales for Captain Willoughby Wallace Hooper gave his images of lower-caste Hindu life and famine victims a more natural-looking aspect.

Known or unknown, British photographers sent to oversee or to document colonial activities in other parts of the empire on which "the sun never set" sent home views of the native peoples of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as of India. The effects on Western viewers of scores of camera pictures of scantily clad, sometimes tattooed or painted humans of color from unindustrialized parts of the world are difficult to determine. No doubt as a group these images stimulated 19th-century positivists in their quest for anthropological information, but whether they reinforced dominant stereotypes against nonwhites or made viewers more conscious of individual differences among subjected peoples depended in part on the indi-vidual photographer's attitude and approach and in part on the context in which they were seen.

In China, posed studio photographs simulating typical occupations appeared on cartes-de-visite made in the port cities during the 1850s, but actual views of street life did not reach the West until John Thomson issued Illustrations of China and Its People in 1873-74. The 200 photographs reproduced in heliotype with descriptive texts—the result of nearly five years spent in Hong Kong, Formosa, and on the mainland—include, besides portraits and scenery, images of people engaged in mundane activities, among them Itinerant Tradesmen, Kiu Kiang Kiangsi (pi. no. 192). This image may suggest a staged view, but its sharpness and detail were meant to convince 19th-century viewers of the reality of a scene happened upon by accident.

Views of everyday life in Japan (based on photographs) appeared in the Illustrated London News soon after the country was opened to Western exploitation by Commodore Matthew C. Perry; on that occasion, a camera was given to the shogun. The peripatetic Felice Beato arrived in Japan about 1863, and five years later his Photographic Views of Japan with Historical and Descriptive Notes appeared; one of its two volumes is devoted to "Native Types." Though similar in intent to Thomson's views of China, many of Beato's portrayals depict aristocrats, military men, laborers, vendors, and geisha (pi. no. 333) posed in the studio holding emblems of their rank or trade. Gracefully composed against simple backgrounds and delicately hand-colored by Japanese artists, these works suggest the influence of the decorative ukiyo-e woodblock depictions of daily life. Similar amalgams of sociological information and artistic effect designed to attract travelers constitute the work of Baron Reteniz von Stillfried, an Austrian who settled in Yokohama in 1871, bought Beato's studio, and produced, with a partner and Japanese assistants, an album entitled Views and Costumes of Japan (pi. no. 193). The genre was further refined by the Japanese photographer Kusakabc Kimbei, an assistant to von Stillfried who took over the latter's studio around 1885 (pi. no. 194)-Following the Meiji Restoration of the late 1860s, which introduced modern industrial ideas to Japan, photography began to spread; by 1877 there were 100 photographers in Tokyo alone, working mainly for the wealthy.

191. WILLIAM JOHNSON. Group of Cotton C from The Indian Amateur's Photographic Album. 1856.
Albumen print. India Office Library and Records Department, British Library, London.

192. JOHN THOMSON. Itinerant Tradesman, Kiu Kiang Kiangsi, c. 1868.
Albumen print. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Purchase of Stieglitz Restricted Fund.

193. BARON RETENIZ VON STILLFRIED. Rain Shower in the Studio, c. 1875.
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

Baron Raimund von Stillfried 
(see collection)

Also known as Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Rathenitz (6 August 1839 - 12 August 1911), was an Austrian photographer. After leaving his military career Stillfried moved to Yokohama, Japan and opened a photographic studio called Stillfried & Co. which operated until 1875. In 1875 Stillfried formed a partnership with Hermann Andersen and the studio was renamed, Stillfried & Andersen (also known as the Japan Photographic Association). This studio operated until 1885. In 1877 Stillfried & Andersen bought the studio and stock of Felice Beato. In the late 1870s Stillfried visited and photographed in Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Greece. In addition to his own photographic endeavours, Stillfried trained many Japanese photographers. In 1886 Stillfried sold the majority of his stock to his protégé, the Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei, he then left Japan.

Kamibashi Bridge, the Otani River

BARON RETENIZ VON STILLFRIED. A woman scooping water


194. KUSAKABE KIMBEI.  Drill of Japanese Fire Brigade, c. 1890.
International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

Tribal peoples played similar roles for those intrigued by exotic customs in the western hemisphere. In the United States, railroad, survey, and frontier photographers— including Gardner, Jackson, and John K. Hillers (first official photographer for the Bureau of Ethnology)—documented Indian life in the course of other work. To the nordi, Humphrey Lloyd Hime included "native races" in his portfolio on the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan expeditions in 1858. As the open lands and simple life of the West began to attract escapees from densely setdcd industrialized regions (and nations), straightforward documentation of Indian life became tinged with idealizing intentions. Individuals such as Adam Clark Vroman, a California bookseller who first accompanied a party of ethnologists to the Southwest in 1895, used the camera to emphasize the dignity, industriousness, and charm of the Hopi and Zuni (pi. no. 195) as well as to depict their customs and ceremonies. Besides donating images to the Bureau of Ethnology archives, Vroman employed them in slide lectures and publications. Ten or so years later, the photographic logging of archaeological excavations was introduced by the Harvard professor George Reisncr.

In the same era, Edward S. Curtis, an ambitious commercial photographer in Seattle, felt moved to record vestiges of the culture of what he perceived as a "vanishing race," eventually creating a 20-volume survey of the customs, habitations, and dress of the Indians of North America. Supported initially by financial help from the investment banker J. P. Morgan, Curtis saw tribal life through a veil of cultural preconceptions that at times led him to introduce into his documentation traditional costumes and artifacts no longer in general use. Working at a time before standards for ethnological photography had been formulated, Curtis treated this subject matter aesthetically, softening forms and obscuring detail to emphasize his overall concept of the mythic nature of American Indian life. Often haunting in character (pi. no. 196), these images of Native American life could be considered within the framework of Pictorialism rather than of documentation (see Chapter 7). Similarly, Portrait of Mother and Child, Ungava Peninsula (pi. no. 197), one of some 1,500 still photographs by the filmmaker Robert Flaherty (whose wife, Frances, often worked with him), combines sociological information with a heroicizing vision that celebrates the unspoiled essence of Inuit life.

195. ADAM CLARK VROMAN. Hopi Maiden. c. 1902.
Platinum print. Private Collection.

196. EDWARD S. CURTIS. The Vanishing Race, c. 1904.
Platinum print. San Francisco Museum of Modem Art; extended loan of Van Deren Coke.

197. ROBERT FLAHERTY. Portrait of Mother and Child, Ungava Peninsula, 1910-12.
Gelatin silver print. Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa

Scientific and Medical Documentation

The second half of the 19th century was also an era of expanding use of photography in connection with scientific documentation. The first daguerreotype microphotographs, by John Benjamin Dancer in the 1840s, reduced a 20-inch document to 1/8 of an inch using a camera with a microscope lens. Other early experiments in both calotype and daguerreotype produced micrographs of bones, teeth, butterfly wings, and seed pods that were harbingers of the contributions anticipated when the camera was harnessed to the microscope. However, the daguerreotype was too unwieldy and the calotype too indistinct to be of great service to science, even though a textbook and atlas based on micro-daguerreotypes taken by Jean Bernard Foucault was issued by Alfred Donne, the chief clinical physician of a Paris hospital, in 1845. With the development of the glass-plate negative, along with the refinement of microscopes, lenses, and shutters, evermore-minute analyses of unseen and barely seen forms and structures became possible. An important contribution in this advance was Human Physiology by Professor John William Draper, whose portrait experiments were discussed in Chapter 2. Published in 1856 with woodcuts based on photographs, it was, according to Harper's New Monthly Magazine, the first "attempt... on an extensive scale to illustrate a book on exact science with the aid of photography." Not long afterward, the first text on the use of photography in microscopic research was written by a German physiologist, Joseph Gerlach, according to Alison Gernsheim (one of the first writers to investigate the historical uses of the camera in medicine). A Photographic Atlas of the Nervous System of the Human Frame was projected for publication in Munich in 1861.

Used at first in England and Germany to provide before-and-after records, camera images soon began to illustrate medical texts on diverse problems, from skin lesions to glandular and skeletal aberrations. In 1858, the London Photographic Journal prophesied that every medical school soon would be furnished with a library of photographic illustrations of disease, and by 1861 the medical profession acknowledged that stereographs and the stereoscope had become "important adjuncts to the microscope for representing the appearance of different phases of disease."

In the study of mental instability, photography assumed administrative, diagnostic, and therapeutic functions. Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond's 1852 portraits taken in a mental asylum have been mentioned, but photography already had been used a year earlier as a component of a concept known as "moral treatment"—an intervention that sought to provide confined mental patients with antidotes to boredom and nonconstructive activity by showing them lantern slides. In what may have been the first use of photographic rather than hand-painted slides, the Langenheim brothers collaborated with the chief physician of the Philadelphia Hospital for the Insane in this magic-lantern therapy.

The Documentation of Wars and Conflicts

War coverage did not really become feasible until the collodion era. It was obvious from the first that the slow, one-of-a-kind daguerreotype was ill suited for war coverage, although some portraits of army personnel were made by this method. The laborious procedures of the calotype process, although used by Bayard to depict the barricades set up in Paris during the revolution of 1848 (pi. no. 198) and by British Army surgeon John McCosh to record episodes in the wars between British and native troops in India and Burma in the mid-19th century, made it, also, a difficult technique for successful battlefield photography. Collodion glass-plate photographers showed themselves capable of exceptional documentation of actuality in relation to military conflicts, perhaps because they recognized that such events were of unusual historical significance. Though somewhat static by modern standards, compelling images of imperialistic adventures, civil disorders, and revolutionary uprisings often go beyond the description o surface appearance to express in visual terms the psychological and physical trauma that such conflicts occasion.

The awkwardness for the photographer of transporting an entire darkroom and of processing the plates on the battlefield is hard to imagine. This incumbrance was balanced, however, by the wet plate's capacity for sharply defined images that could be easily duplicated—factors that made the commercialization of such photographs possible. Still, those working in collodion concentrated on portraying war-related activities rather than action under fire, in part for logistical reasons but also because documentary images were expected to be in sharp focus, a virtual impossibility for photographers using the collodion process in the midst of battle. The documentation of army life by Le Gray made at an encampment of soldiers during peacetime reflects the near religious exultation with which Napoleon III regarded his army camp at Chalons (pi. no. 199).

Photography entered the arena of war on the wings of politics. Ironically, the first large group of sustained images that have survived was commissioned because the British Establishment wished to present evidence to controvert written reports by William Russell, correspondent for The Times of London, detailing the gross inefficiency of military leaders during the Crimean War. The images were made by Roger Fenton, a founder of the elitist Photographic Society of London, during four months spent with the British Army at Sebastopol on the shores of the Black Sea. Bankrolled by a Manchester publishing firm and blessed by Prince Albert, Fenton arrived at Balaclava Harbor in March, 1855, with two assistants, five cameras, 700 glass plates, and a horse-drawn van (formerly that of a wine merchant) converted into a darkroom (pi. no. 200). Working at times in insufferable heat, with plates constantly being ruined by dust and insects, and besieged by the curious crowds of soldiers that flocked around begging for portraits, he complained of getting little done, but by the time he arrived back in England he had produced some 360 photographs.


200. UNKNOWN. Roger Fenton's Photographic Van with Aide Sparling.
Woodcut from The Illustrated London News, Nov. 10, 1855.
Gemsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.

To modern eyes, these images, especially the portraits, may seem static and contrived. This was partly the result of the limitations of collodion—exposures required from about 3 to 20 seconds—but their character also reflects Fenton's commission to present British Army personnel and ordnance in the best light. Lt. Col. Hallewell—28th Regiment—His Day's Work Over (pi. no. 201), an almost bucolic scene despite the embattled surroundings in which class hierarchies are still—incredibly—observed, is typical of many of the portraits. At the same time, Fenton acknowledged a broader mission. Noting that despite the arduous-ness of the project he could not leave until he had "secured pictures and subjects most likely to be historically interesting," he made views of the harbor and deserted battlefields that are visual expressions of the suffering and destruction, of the longing for home, of which he wrote so movingly.

James Robertson, the British Superintendent of the Mint at Constantinople, who for 15 years had been making occasional scenic photographs of the Near East, took over in the Crimea after Fenton returned to England. The 60 or so images he produced after the British had conquered Sebastopol arc well-composed but far less artful documents of ruins, docks, left-over ammunition piles, and hospital facilities. Among the evidences of the disastrous incursions wrought by foreign forces on the landscape is a view by Robertson of Balaclava Harbor (pi. no. 202) showing an army encampment in what formerly had been a magnificent wooded wilderness. Both Fenton and Robert-son's photographs were assembled into presentation albums for British and French royalty, were exhibited in London and Paris, and sold individually in these cities and New York; in addition, they provided material for engraved illustrations in the London press.

Photographs of desolation and destruction, among them Fenton's own Valley of the Shadow of Death (pi no. 203), had a profound effect on viewers used to artistic depictions of wartime heroics. They were completely unlike drawings made by artists sent to the Crimea, which Fenton criticized for their "total want of likeness to reality. The absence of uplifting tone in camera documentations was especially shocking because the images were unhesitatingly accepted as real and truthful; indeed, discussing Fenton's Crimean pictures in a review of 1855, an Art Journal critic held that the "palpable reality" of which the camera was capable could be matched by no other descriptive means. Robertson's photographs received fewer accolades, and one wonders if the warmer reception of Fenton's work was a consequence of his friendships among the British upper class. However, by the time Robertson's images were exhibited, the war was about over, and public sentiment in Britain had turned from concern to indifference, with the result that even Fenton's work did not sell to the extent anticipated by its publisher.

No full-scale wars occupied Europeans for the remainder of the century, but uprisings, mutinies, and imperialist adventures were fairly continuous on the Continent, and in Africa, the Far East, and Latin America. Returning from the Crimea to Constantinople, Robertson and his former partner, Felice Beato, traveled east to record the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, in which the Indian Sepoy regiments rebelled (unsuccessfully) against the British garrisons and, ultimately, against British rule in India. In addition to an interest in architecture, social customs, and landscape, Beato apparently was fascinated by scenes of devastation. In China in 1860 he documented the destruction of the Taku forts near Tientsin (Tianjin) during the Second Opium War (pi. no. 204), then, in Japan, die fighting at Shimonoseki Strait, and, during the 1880s, he turned up on the battlefields of the Sudan. Carefully composed and printed, his photographs present the aftermath of battles somewhat in the manner of ghoulish still lifes, an approach that has been characterized as ""distant and detached." However, considering the state of photographic technology, the fact that Beato was an outsider representing an oppressor nation in both China and Japan, and that the public was as yet unused to such photodocumentation, the reproach may be irrelevant; these images must have evoked a powerful response that current jaded perceptions can no longer imagine. Others whose approach to war documentation was also that of a "distant witness," but whose work has less visual interest, were John Burke, working in India and Afghanistan in the 1870s, and Sergeant Harrold, photographing for the British Royal Engineers in Abyssinia between 1868 and 1870.

Between 1855 and 1870, camera images of wars and insurrections generally were accepted as truthful, if painful, mirrors of reality, but after the Paris Commune of 1871, other issues emerged in connection with documentations of politically controversial events. One involved the uses to which such photographs might be put, a problem that arose when portraits of the Communard leaders, made during the brief two-and-one-half months of their ascendancy, were used afterward by political opponents to identify and round up participants for trial and execution (pi. no. 205). The other problem concerned authenticity; documents purported to be of Communard atrocities were later shown to be fakes (pi. no. 206) issued by the Thiers government that took power after the fall of the Commune. Though not the first time that photographs had been doctored, the acknowledgment that documentary images could be altered marked the end of an era that had believed that such photographs might be pardoned anything because of their redeeming merit—truth.

198. HIPPOLYTE BAYARD. Remains of the Barricades of the Revolution of 1848, rue Royale, Paris, 1849.
Albumen print. Societe Franc,aise de Photographic Paris.

199. GUSTAVE LE GRAY. Souvenirs du Camp de Chalons au General Decaen, 1857.
Albumen print. Collection Paul F. Walter, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York

see also:
GUSTAVE LE GRAY  (collection)

201. ROGER FENTON. Lt. Col. Hallewell—28th Regiment—His Day's Work Over, 1855.
Albumen print. National Army Museum, London.

ROGER FENTON (see also collection)

2O2. JAMES ROBERTSON. Balaclava Harbor, Crimean War, 1855.
Albumen print. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

203. ROGER FENTON. Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855.
Albumen print. Science Museum, London.

204. FELICE BEATO. Embrasure, Taku Fort, 1860.
Albumen print. National Army Museum, London.

2O5. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Communards in Their Coffins, May, 1871.
Albumen print. Gemsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin

see also:
Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

206. EUGENE APPERT. The Massacre of the Arcueil Dominicans, May 25, 1871.
Albumen print. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

Documenting the Civil War in the United States

The American Civil War was the first conflict to be thoroughly photographed, with cameramen on hand from the early Union defeat at Bull Run in 1861 to the final surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox in 1865. The thousands of photographs that issued from this enterprise were considered by William Hoppin, a prominent member of the New-York Historical Society at the time, to be "by far the most important additions to the pictorial history of the war." Hoppin went on to suggest that because successful views of action were not possible under battle conditions, most of the images were of the dead or dying, but, in fact, photographers documented a broad range of behind-the-lines activities. In today's terms, the frontal poses and clearly defined detail in the majority of images have a static quality that has been ascribed, generally, to the limitations of collodion technology. However, ideological factors also were significant; in order to accept the photograph "as an unmediated medium of picture-making," viewers expected the image to appear technically unflawed, to be clear, inclusive, and finely detailed— indeed, to present itself as reality itself.

There can be little disagreement that the extensive coverage and excellent quality of Civil War photography stemmed largely from Mathew Brady's visionary belief in the role of the camera as historian, even though it is now acknowledged that he actually made few of the images that bore his name. Convinced, as were most people at the time that the conflict would be of short duration, Brady claimed to have obeyed an inner "spirit" that commanded him to leave his lucrative portrait business to demonstrate the role that photography might play in the conflict. In truth, his connections with influential Northern politicians made it possible for him to outfit a wagon darkroom and participate in the First Battle of Bull Run in July, 1861.From then on, Brady regarded himself as an "impresario" —organizer, supplier, and publisher—for a corps of about 20 men, among them the former employees of the Brady portrait studios, Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan. Using 16 x 20 inch, 8 x 10 inch, and stereograph cameras, these men photographed bridges, supply lines (pi. no. 207), bivouacs, camps, the weary, the bored, the wounded, and the dead—just about everything except actual battles, which would not have been sharp because exposure time was still counted in seconds. Published as Incidents of the War, and sold by Brady and the Anthonys, the images appeared with the Brady imprint only. This angered Gardner (and others) and led to the establishment in 1863 of an independent corps and publishing enterprise that credited the images to the individual photographers. Although most cameramen working during the Civil War were attached to units of the U.S. Army, George Cook, a daguerreotypist in Charleston who had managed Brady's New York studio in 1851, photographed for die Confederate forces (pi. no. 208).

Much scholarship has gone into separating the work of the various Brady field operatives, with the result that our knowledge and appreciation of individual contributions have increased, but the effect of die enormous body of work—some seven to eight thousand images—is and was independent of considerations of attribution. The extensive coverage also reflected the increased need by the contemporary media—the weekly illustrated journals Harper's and Frank Leslie's—for images of catastrophic events. By reproducing on-the-spot graphic illustrations, and hiring artists to transform photographs into wood engravings, these magazines brought the battlegrounds into comfortable drawing rooms for the first time. As die documentation proceeded, readers of the illustrated press and purchasers of stereograph views were made acutely aware of what the New York Times called "the terrible reality." A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (pi. no. 209), taken by O'Sullivan (printed by Gardner) and later included in Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War, is a pictorial evocation rather than merely an illustration in that it encapsulates the tone of Lincoln's sorrowful words commemorating the battle. It brought home the anonymity of modern warfare, in which it was realized that shoeless soldiers, their pockets turned out, "will surely be buried unknown by strangers, and in a strange land." The haunting stillness of Ruins of Richmond (pi, no. 210), made toward the end of the war and frequently attributed to Gardner, is a quintessential evocation of the desolation occasioned by four years of death and destruction.

Civil War reportage owed its successes also to the readiness of the military to accept photography as a new visual tool, hiring photographers other than "Brady's Men" to work with various units. Barnard, the well-respected former daguerreotypist, worked with Brady briefly and then was attached to the Military Division of the Mississippi, where he documented the aftermath of General Sherman's march across Georgia in 1863; three years later he published a selection of images as Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign. The surpassing "delicacy of execution . . . scope of treatment and . .. fidelity of impression," noted by a reviewer for Harper's Weekly, are evidences of Barnard's commitment to a style that included the printing-in of sky negatives when he believed they might enhance the truthfulness of the image. One such photograph (pi. no. 211), a view of die deserted rebel works occupied by Sherman's forces following the battle that delivered Atlanta to the Union Army, is especially moving as an emblem of the nation's psychological and physical exhaustion.

Sometime around the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox, April 10, 1865, Gardner took what would be the last portrait of Lincoln (pi. no. 68). Following the assassination, he photographed the President's corpse four days later, and arranged to make portraits of those involved in the plot. Gardner was on hand July 7, 1865, with camera set up on a balcony overlooking the Arsenal Penitentiary courtyard, and from this position he made a sequence of exposures of the hangings of the conspirators—one of the earliest photographic essays on a specific event of political or social significance. The views that issued from this seminal documentation constitute a bleakly powerful story.

War photographers of the collodion period were interested in objectivity and craftsmanship. Through choice of subject, position, and exposure, they attempted to preseni accurately the localities, events, and methods of war, in the light of what they conceived to be the national interest. While close-ups, blurring, and distortion—the modern stylistic devices used by contemporary photographers in conflict situations—would have been antithetical to both the goals of the photographers and the desire by the public for clear pictorial records, there still was a need to invest the images with dramatic qualities consistent with their objectives but transcending temporal limitations. One frequently used approach was to incorporate silhouetted forms and figures within the frame; the stark Ruins of Richmond (pi. no. 210) and Gardner's General John F. Hatrtranft Reading the Death Warrant (pi. no. 235) illustrate how this stylistic device serves to isolate and emphasize certain forms while investing the image with a sense of timelessness.

207. MATHEW BRADY. Landing Supplies on the James River, c. 1861.
Albumen print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

208. GEORGE COOK. Charleston Cadets Guarding Yankee Prisoners, 1861.
Albumen print. Cook Collection, Valentine Museum, Richmond, Va.

209. TIMOTHY H. O'SULLIVAN (originally printed by Alexander Gardner). A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsivania. July. 18
Albumen print. Rare Books and Manuscript Division, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

see also collection:

210. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Ruins of Richmond, 1865.
Albumen print Museum of Modern Art, New York.

211. GEORGE N. BARNARD. Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Georgia, 1864.
Albumen print. Stuart Collection, Rare Books Division, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

Photographic Documentation and Graphic Art

A Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave, c. 1865.

Pictorial documentation of the Crimean and Civil wars was commissioned also of graphic artists by periodical publications on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, the illustrator Alfred Waud, a competent if uninspired drafts-man, accompanied Brady on his first foray. Today, the most renowned of the Civil War "sketch artists" is Winslow Homer, at the time a young unknown sent by Harper's Weekly to cover front-line action in 1861. Besides turning out on-the-spot drawings that engravers converted into magazine illustrations, Homer collected material that he developed into paintings to create the only body of work of consistently high caliber with the Civil War as theme. His unconventional realism and his preference for mundane scenes that express the human side of army experience imbue these oils with a nonheroic modernity similar to that found in many camera images of the war. Although there is no evidence that Homer used actual photographs in his compositions of camp-life, his painting, A Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave (pi. no. 212), evokes the same sense of direct experience visible in Three Soldiers (pi. no. 213), a stereograph by an unknown maker.

Homer aside, there is no question that soon after their appearance, photographic documentations, with their keen sense of being an on-the-spot witness to reality, affected the course of the graphic arts in terms of theme and treatment. Though the camera lens might seem to be a more efficient tool than the brush for excising discrete moments of reality, the urge to recreate the daily dramas of ordinary people and the political events of the time on canvas also moved painters—especially the group in France known as Realists. That these artists consciously sought to emulate photography, to capture "the temporal fragment as the basic unit of perceived experience," as American art historian Linda Nochlin has observed, can be seen in the Execution of Maximilian, an 1867 work by Edouard Manet. Availing himself of news reports and using actual photographs of the shooting by firing squad as a basis for this work, the painter endeavored to deheroicize and demythicize a political occurrence that artists had classically treated with reverence. By emphasizing what the eye sees rather than invoking timeless moral or religious truths, both Realist painters and documentary photographers provided the public with alternative concepts about valor on the battlefield, triumph in death, and the sanctity of life.

It is a paradox nevertheless that documentary photographs are most memorable when they transcend the specifics of time, place, and purpose, when they invest ordinary events and objects with enduring resonance. Sensitivity to the transforming character of light, to the way it structures, reveals, and dramatizes, enabled 19th-century photographers to infuse gesture, expression, and, especially, portions of the built and natural world with feeling. In transmuting bits and pieces of an uninflected, seamless reality into formally structured entities, these pioneers of the medium demonstrated the unique potential of the camera to illuminate as well as record.

213. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Three Soldiers, 1860s.
One-half of an albumen stereograph. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C

ROGER FENTON (see collection)

"Gentleman photographer" might be an apt description of Roger Fenton, although his images are neither effete nor languid. His outlook, associations, and activities were re-flections of his firmly established position in the comfortable reaches of British society in the mid-1800s. For about 15 years, starting in the late 1840s, he was in the forefront of activity in the medium, producing art photographs and documentation, traveling widely, and organizing activities to promote photography. In 1862, without explanation he suddenly renounced all interest, sold his equipment and negatives, and returned his mind to the legal interests that had occupied him before photography.

From his youth, Fenton's interest was in art rather than in his family's textile and banking businesses. After graduating from college, he pursued training in Paris in common with other aspiring painters, studying with the French salon artist Paul Delaroche in 1841. This fortunate choice led to an acquaintanceship with photography and with several other young artists who were interested in the new field, including Le Gray. Eventually, Fenton returned to England and trained also for a more practical career in law, but he retained an interest in painting, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, and in photography, dabbling in the calotype.

In 1847, he joined with Frederick Archer, Hugh Welch Diamond, Robert Hunt, and William Newton to form the Photographic Club of London (also called the Calotypc Club). Three years later, he proposed the establishmen: of a formal society, modeled on the French Societe heliographique, that would meet regularly, publish a journal, and maintain a library and exhibition rooms. This entity. The Photographic Society of London (later the Royal Photographic Society), was finally inaugurated in 1853, after the relaxation of a part of Talbot's patent, with Sir Charles Eastlake as president and Fenton as honorary secretary. Fenton's influential associations brought about the patron-age of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the new society. In addition, he was a member of the Photographic Association, a professional body, and sat on committees to consider problems related to the fading of paper and copyright laws.

Fenton also photographed. In 1853 he made a number of portraits of the royal family; a year later he traveled to Russia to document the building of a bridge in Kiev, stopping to make calotypcs in St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well, On his return, he was employed by the British Museum to document collections of classical art and drawings. For a good part of 1855, he was involved with the Crimean War project, presenting his pictures and experiences to the crowned heads of Britain and France and trying to regain his health after a bout with cholera. The next year, he

returned to his post at the museum. From this time until 1862, he was involved with art photography, with landscape documentation, with a publication devoted to engravings made from photographs, and with stereography. After providing 21 images for a work entitled Stereoscopic Views of Northern Walesy he contributed regularly to Stereoscopic Magazine, a publication founded by Lovell Reeves that lasted for about five years. Aside from the documentations and landscapes already mentioned, he turned out images of models posed in exotic costumes and mannered still lifes, some replete with the overdecorated crockery dear to Victorians (pi. no. 260).

Fenton did not explain or justify his abrupt renunciation of photography, but a number of factors probably were involved. On the technical side, the instability of paper images continued to present problems; an album of his photographs done for the British Museum faded for no apparent reason. Perhaps of greater importance, in view of his own excellent craftsmanship that has kept most of his work remarkably well preserved, was the changing attitudes toward the medium that became apparent as collodion technology turned photography into business. His arrangements with the British Museum reflected the fact that the photographer was considered by many to be an artisan with little to say over the sales of images. Further-more, photographs hung in the 1862 International Exhibition had been relegated to the machinery section, despite a spirited campaign in the photographic press to consider them as art. Like contemporaries in France who also with-drew (Le Gray, Baldus), Fenton may have found these events too discouraging. In some ways, Fenton's activities are of as great interest as his images. While he made fine landscapes and still lifes, and some compelling views of the Crimean conflict, his campaigns to promote photography are indicative of the concern displayed by many young camera artists about the rapid commercialization of the field. In organizing photographic societies, they were attempting to control and maintain standards that would prevent the medium from being used as a purely mechanical picture-maker. This elitism was only partially successful, as first collodion, then the dry plate, and finally the snapshot camera pushed photographic practice in the opposite direction, making the battle for standards a recurring feature in the history of the medium.

ROGER FENTON. Col. Doherty, Officers and  Men, 13th Light Dragoons

ROGER FENTON (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Roger Fenton (March 20, 1819 - August 8, 1869) was a pioneering British photographer, one of the first war photographers.
Roger Fenton was born in Heywood, Lancashire. His grandfather was a wealthy Lancashire cotton manufacturer and banker, his father a banker and member of Parliament. Fenton was the fourth of seven children by his father's first marriage. His father had 10 more children by his second wife.
In 1838 Fenton went to University College London where he graduated in 1840 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, having studied English, mathematics, literature, and logic. In 1841, he began to study law at University College, evidently sporadically as he did not qualify as a solicitor until 1847, in part because he had become interested in studying to be a painter. In Yorkshire in 1843 Fenton married Grace Elizabeth Maynard, presumably after his first sojourn in Paris (his passport was issued in 1842) where he may briefly have studied painting in the studio of Paul Delaroche. When he registered as a copyist in the Louvre in 1844 he named his teacher as being the history and portrait painter Michel Martin Drolling, who taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but Fenton's name does not appear in the records of that school. By 1847 Fenton had returned to London where he continued to study painting now under the tutelage of the history painter Charles Lucy, who became his friend and with whom, starting in 1850, he served on the board of the North London School of Drawing and Modelling. In 1849, 1850, and 1851 he exhibited paintings in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy.
Fenton visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London in 1851 and was impressed by the photography on display there. He then visited Paris to learn the waxed paper calotype process, most likely from Gustave Le Gray, its inventor. By 1852 he had photographs exhibited in England, and travelled to Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg making calotypes there, and photographed views and architecture around Britain. He published a call for the setting up of a photographic society.
In 1855 Fenton went to the Crimean War on assignment for the publisher Thomas Agnew to photograph the troops, with a photographic assistant Marcus Sparling and a servant and a large van of equipment. Despite high temperatures, breaking several ribs, and suffering from cholera, he managed to make over 350 usable large format negatives. An exhibition of 312 prints was soon on show in London. Sales were not as good as expected, possibly because the war had ended. According to Susan Sontag, in her work Regarding the Pain of Others (ISBN 0-374-24858-3) (2003), Fenton was sent to the Crimean War as the first official war photographer at the insistence of Prince Albert. The photographs produced were to be used to offset the general aversion of the British people to an unpopular war, and to counteract the antiwar reporting of The Times. The photographs were to be converted into woodblocks and published in the less critical Illustrated London News and published in book form and displayed in a gallery. Fenton avoided making pictures of dead, injured or mutilated soldiers.
Due to the size and cumbersome nature of his photographic equipment, Fenton was limited in his choice of motifs. And because of the not very photosensitive material of his time, he was only able to produce pictures of unmoving objects, mostly posed pictures. But he also photographed the landscape, including an area near to where the Light Brigade - made famous in Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" - was ambushed, called The Valley of Death; however, Fenton's photographs were taken in the similarly named The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Two pictures were taken of this area, one with several cannonballs on the road, the other with an empty road. Opinions differ concerning which one was taken first. Filmmaker Errol Morris wrote a series of essays canvassing the evidence. He concluded that the photo without the cannonballs was taken first, but he remained uncertain about who moved the balls onto the road in the second picture - were they deliberately placed on the road by Fenton to enhance the image, or were soldiers in the process of removing them for reuse?
Several of Fenton's pictures, including the two versions of The Valley of the Shadow of Death, are published in The Ultimate Spectacle: A Visual History of the Crimean War by Ulrich Keller.
In 1858 Fenton made studio genre studies based on romantically imaginative ideas of Muslim life, such as Seated Odalisque, using friends and models who were not always convincing in their roles.
Fenton is considered the first war photographer for his work during the Crimean War, for which he used a mobile studio called a "photographic van". In recognition of the importance of his photography, Fenton's photos of the Crimean war were included in the collection, 100 Photos that Changed the World.

Mathew Brady
(see collection)

As unlikely as it may at first seem, Mathew Brady was in some ways the New World counterpart of Roger Fenton. Differing in background, class position, training, and range of subjects, Brady nevertheless shared with Fenton a sense of mission as well as high critical esteem. Son of poor Irish farmers, Brady arrived in New York City from upstate, probably in the mid-183os. He was introduced by the painter William Page to Samuel F. B. Morse, from whom he may have learned daguerreotyping, although there is no mention in Morse's papers of Brady as a student. His early years in the city are scantily documented, but sometime in 1844 he opened a portrait studio in what was the busiest commercial section of lower Broadway. By the late 1850s, after one failure in Washington and several moves in New-York, he was the owner of fashionable portrait establishments in both cities. Friend to politicians and showmen, he was known to all as the foremost portraitist of the era.

Brady's success was based on high standards of crafts-manship and an unerring feeling for public relations. To this end his luxuriously appointed studios turned out a well-made but not exceptional product that cost more than the average daguerreotype or, later, albumen portrait. In Brady's establishments, the line between a painted and a camera portrait was dim: daguerreotypes could be copied life-size on albumen paper, inked or painted in by well-trained artists, while collodion glass negatives often were enlarged for the same purpose. In addition to displays of portraits of celebrities, his studios contained stereoscope apparatus with which customers could view the latest cards by a variety of makers. It is little wonder that the well-to-do and influential were attracted to Brady's studios.

Brady was an entrepreneur, setting up the studios, cajoling famous sitters, and arranging for reproductions of his work in the illustrated press, but the actual exposures were made by "operators," among them James Brown, George Cook, O'Sullivan, and, Gardner. In addition, a line of assembly workers that included many women saw to it that the firm's daguerreotypes and, later, its albumen prints were properly finished and presented. Nevertheless, at the time it was taken for granted that honors for excellence in portraiture, starting with a silver medal at the 1844- American Institute Exhibition and extending into the collodion era, should go to Brady himself. His greatest critical triumph was at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, where the Americans swept the field. It was on the trip to Europe for this event that Brady first investigated collodion and made the acquaintance of Gardner, who was to be influential in the success of his Washington portrait gallery.

Had Brady contented himself with commercial portraiture, it is doubtful that his role in the history of the medium would have been prominent, but he seems always to have been aware that photography could be more than just a successful commercial enterprise. In 1845, he proposed the publication of a series of portraits of famous American personalities in all professions. Issued in only one edinor A Gallery of Illustrious Americans, with lithographs by Francpis D'Avignon based on Brady daguerreotypes, was premature and did not sell. However, a portrait of Lincoln. the first of many, became so well-known that the President ascribed his election to this likeness. Taken just before the famous Cooper Union campaign address, this work showed a beardless Lincoln with softened features to make him appear more agreeable.

When the Civil War broke out, Brady's sense of photography's destiny finally could be tested. He was able to demonstrate not only that war reportage was possible but also his own personal courage in continuing the mission after his photographic wagon was caught in shell-fire at Bull Run. In the spring of 1862, Brady trained crews of photographers, assigned them to various territories, had wagons especially constructed in order to transport the photographic gear securely, and arranged for materials and equipment to be supplied from the New York house of T. and E. Anthony. Brady had expected to make back the expenses of his ambitious undertaking by selling photo-graphs, mainly in stereograph format, but after the war the demand for such images ceased as Americans, engulfed in an economic recession, tried to forget the conflict and deal with current realities. Debts incurred by the project, the slow trade in portrait studios generally, and the downfall of Brady's New York political patrons—coupled with the panic of 1873—resulted in the eventual loss of both his enterprises. At the same time, Brady's efforts to interest the War Department in his collection of Civil War images were unavailing. One set of negatives was acquired by the Anthony company as payment for the supplies, and another remained in storage, slowly deteriorating. When this collection of more than 5,000 negatives came up at auction in 1871, it was bought by the government for the storage charges of $2,840; somewhat later the sick and by-now impoverished Brady was awarded $25,000 in recognition of the historic services he had performed. At the time, it was impossible for most bureaucrats to realize the significance of the Civil War project. This vast enterprise not only had made it possible for photographers to gain the kinds of experience needed for the documentation of the West, but it had, for the first time in the United States, given shape to photography's greater promise—-that of transforming momentary life experiences into lucid visual expression.

MATHEW BRADY. Civil War, 1865


Mathew Brady (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Mathew B. Brady (1822 - January 15, 1896), was one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and the documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism.
Brady was born in Warren County, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, Andrew and Julia Brady. He moved to New York City at the age of 17. By 1844, he had his own photography studio in New York, and by 1845, Brady began to exhibit his portraits of famous Americans. He opened a studio in Washington, D.C. in 1849, where he met Juliette Handy, whom he married in 1851. Brady's early images were daguerreotypes, and he won many awards for his work; in the 1850s ambrotype photography became popular, which gave way to the albumen print, a paper photograph produced from large glass negatives most commonly used in the American Civil War photography. In 1859, Parisian photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri popularized the carte de visite and these small pictures (the size of a visiting card) rapidly became a popular novelty as thousands of these images were created and sold in the United States and Europe.Brady's efforts to document the Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned Brady his place in history. Despite the obvious dangers, financial risk, and discouragement of his friends he is later quoted as saying "I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'Go,' and I went." His first popular photographs of the conflict were at the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he got so close to the action that he only just avoided being captured.
He employed Alexander Gardner, James Gardner, Timothy H. O'Sullivan, William Pywell, George N. Barnard, Thomas C. Roche and seventeen other men, each of whom were given a traveling darkroom, to go out and photograph scenes from the Civil War. Brady generally stayed in Washington, D.C., organizing his assistants and rarely visited battlefields personally. This may have been due, at least in part, to the fact that Brady's eyesight began to deteriorate in the 1850s.
In October 1862, Brady presented an exhibition of photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery entitled, "The Dead of Antietam." Many of the images in this presentation were graphic photographs of corpses, a presentation totally new to America. This was the first time that many Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous "artists' impressions".
Following the conflict, a war-weary public lost interest in seeing photos of the war, and Brady’s popularity and practice declined drastically.
During the war Brady spent over $100,000 to create over 10,000 plates. He expected the U.S. government to buy the photographs when the war ended, but when the government refused to do so he was forced to sell his New York City studio and go into bankruptcy. Congress granted Brady $25,000 in 1875, but he remained deeply in debt. Depressed by his financial situation, loss of eyesight and devastated by the death of his wife in 1887, he became very lonely. Mathew Brady died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, at five o'clock, on January 15, 1896, from complications following a streetcar accident.
Brady's funeral was financed by veterans of the 7th New York Infantry. He was buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Levin Corbin Handy, Brady's nephew by marriage, took over his uncle's photography business after his death.
The thousands of photographs Mathew Brady took have become the most important visual documentation of the Civil War, and have helped historians better understand the era.
Brady photographed and made portraits of many senior Union officers in the war, including Ulysses S. Grant, Nathaniel Banks, Don Carlos Buell, Ambrose Burnside, Benjamin Butler, Joshua Chamberlain, George Custer, David Farragut, John Gibbon, Winfield Hancock, Samuel P. Heintzelman, Joseph Hooker, Oliver Howard, David Hunter, John A. Logan, Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, James McPherson, George Meade, David Dixon Porter, William Rosecrans, John Schofield, William Sherman, Daniel Sickles, Henry Warner Slocum, George Stoneman, Edwin V. Sumner, George Thomas, Emory Upton, James Wadsworth, and Lew Wallace.
On the Confederate side, Brady photographed P.G.T. Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, Lord Lyons, James Henry Hammond, and Robert E. Lee. (Lee's first session with Brady was in 1845 as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, his final after the war in Richmond, Virginia.)
Brady also photographed Abraham Lincoln on many occasions. His Lincoln photographs have been used for the $5 dollar bill and the Lincoln penny.
After the Civil War, many of the plates Brady used became the glass in greenhouses, and the pictures were lost forever.


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