History of Photography


History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 4












A Short Technical History: Part I



Before Photography

In China in the 5th century B.C., Mo Ti recorded his observation that the reflected light rays of an illuminated object passing through a pinhole into a darkened enclo¬sure resulted in an inverted but otherwise exact image of the object. In the following century in die West, Aristode described seeing, during a solar eclipse, a crescent-shaped image of the sun on the ground beneath a tree, which was projected by rays of light passing through the interstices of foliage onto a darkened surface. In the 10th century, the Arabian scholar Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) added the observation that an image thus formed was sharply defined when the aperture through which it was projected was small and became diffuse as the hole was enlarged to admit more light. Similar optical phenomena were noted by Roger Bacon in the 13th century and Rcinerius Gemma-Frisius in the 16th.

During the Renaissance, efforts to control and direct this phenomenon resulted in the concept of a camera obscura—literally, a dark room—that enabled light to enter through a hole in a wall facing another wall or plane on which the projected image appeared in natural colors. Sixteenth -century descriptions by Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvius, and Girolamo Cardano in Italy and by Erasmus Reinhold and Gemma-Frisius in Northern Europe make it difficult to assign exact dates or authorship to the construction of the first camera obscura, but references to Giovanni Batrista della Porta's Magiae naturalis of 1558 indicate that by then the device had become familiar to scientists, magicians, and artists. By die 17th century, the camera obscura had emerged as a necessary tool for the working out of new concepts of pictorial representation, in which artists and draftsmen depicted objects and space as if seen from one position and one point in time (pi. no. 214).
From the 17th to the 19th century, the camera obscura underwent continual improvement. Better lenses sharpened the image, and mirrors corrected the inversion and projected the picture onto a more convenient surface for drawing. Portable models were popular among European geographers as well as artists, including a tentlike collapsible version by Athanasius Kircher (pi. no. 215) illustrated in his 1646 treatise on light as a suitable instrument for drawing the landscape. That scientists and artists regarded it as a device both for aiding graphic representation and for ascertaining basic truths about nature is apparent from the Dutch philosopher Constantijn Huygens's description of die camera obscura image as "life itself, something so refined that words can't say," while others of the 17th century remarked on its ability to produce a "picture of inexpressible force and brightness ... of a vivacity and richness nothing can execll."


214. STEFANO DELLA BELLA. Camera Obscum with View of Florence, n.d. Ink drawing.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection.


215. ATHANASIUS KIRCHER. Large Portable Camera Obscura, 1646. Engraving.
Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.


During the 18th century, fantastic literary and graphic explanations about phenomena caused by light rays appeared, among them an allusion in Tiphaigne de la Roche's fictional work Giphantie to a canvas as a mirror that retains images that light transmits, and a visual representation of this concept is seen in an anonymous engraving, The Miraculous Mirror (pi. no. 216). Actual camera obscurae, used by artists to improve the accuracy of their depictions, were shown on occasion in portrait paintings (pi. no. 217), as though suggesting that the portrait was a truthful image of the pictured individual. Interest in faithfully transcribing the visible world from the point of view of the individual led to the invention of other devices besides the camera obscura. For example, the camera lucida, invented by William Hyde Wollaston in 1807, is an arrangement of a prism and lens on a stand that enables the draftsman to see a distant object superimposed on the drawing paper, theoretically making transcription easier.

The chemical components necessary for photography were not recognized until some 200 years after the camera obscura was first conceived. From antiquity to the Renaissance, the mystery surrounding organic and mineral substances and their reactions to light and heat made chemical experimentation an inexact exercise practiced mainly by alchemists. In the 17th century, more accurate observation led to the identification of silver nitrate, silver chloride, and ferrous salts, the first chemical substances used in the experiments that led to photography. The accidental discovery in 1725 by Johann Hcinrich Schulze, Professor of Medicine at the University of Altdorf, that silver nitrate darkened when exposed to sunlight and that this change was the result of exposure to light and not heat was crucial to photography. The light sensitivity of silver chloride was the subject of experiments by Swedish Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheelc who published his results in 1777, un-aware that at mid-century an Italian, Giacomo Battista Beccaria, had discovered the same phenomenon. Scheele also established that the violet end of the solar spectrum was actinically more active in producing this effect and that the darkened material consisted of particles of metallic silver that could be precipitated by ammonia. Silver chloride was one of the many elements tested in 1782 by Jean Senebier, the Chief Librarian of Geneva, in order to determine the time required for various degrees of light to darken the chemical salts. He also studied the reaction of the chloride to different portions of the spectrum, foreshadowing later experiments that demonstrated that the spectrum reproduced itself in natural colors on the chloride surface.

Two 18th-century English scientists, Dr. William Lewis and Joseph Priestley, formed the link between these early chemical experiments and later efforts to find a way to retain an image produced by the darkening of silver halides by light. The notebooks of Dr. Lewis, who had repeated Schulze's experiments by painting designs in silver nitrate on white bone that he exposed to sunlight, were acquired by Josiah Wedgwood, the British commercial potter, who may have become interested in finding a photochemical process when he was commissioned by Catherine the Great of Russia to provide a table service with 1,282 views of country mansions and gardens, many of which were made with the aid of the camera obscura. As a member of Wedgwood's Lunar Society discussion group, Priestley imparted information about the photochemical properties of silver halides that he gathered from his association with prominent figures in the European scientific community". In 1802, young Thomas Wedgwood attempted to transfer paintings on glass to white leather and paper moistened with a solution of nitrate of silver, describing the resulting negative image as follows: "where the light is unaltered, the color of the nitrate is deepest." Neither Wedgwood nor his associate in the experiments, chemist Humphry Davy, were able to find a way to arrest the action of light on the silver salts; unless kept in the dark the picture eventually was completely obliterated. Their early experiments demonstrated, however, that it was possible to chemically transfer by means of light not only pictures but objects in profile such as leaves and fabrics.

216. UNKNOWN. The Miraculous Mirror, 18th century. Engraving.
International Museum of Photograph}' at George Eastman House, Rochester, NY.

217. CHARLES AMEDEE PHILIPPE VAN LOO. The Magic Lantern, 18th century.
Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

First Successful Experiments

Interest in the practical uses of new scientific discoveries developed among both the enlightened British and French bourgeoisie during the early years of the 19th century and led the brothers Joseph Nicephore Niepce (pi. no. 4) and Claude Niepce. who returned to the family estates at Chalon-sur-Saone after the Napoleonic Wars, to become involved with a series of inventions, including a motor-driven rivercraft (the pyreolophore), a method of making indigo dye, a device for printing lithographs, and a process for obtaining images by the action of light. In 1816, Nicephore and Claude produced an image in the camera obscura using paper sensitized with silver chloride, but because the tones were inverted and efforts to make positive prints were unsuccessful, Nicephore eventually turned to using bitumen, an ingredient in resist varnish that hardens and becomes insoluble when exposed to light. Between 1822 and 1827, while his brother was abroad, Nicephore produced transfers of engravings, first on glass and then on pewter, by coating the plates with bitumen, placing them against engravings made translucent by oiling or varnishing, and exposing the sandwich to sunlight. The bitumen hardened on the portions not covered by the lines of the print and remained soluble on the rest of the plate; after washing, an image appeared with the bare pewter forming the lines. It was Niepce's plan to etch these plates, thus creating an intaglio matrix from which inked prints might be pulled. Heliography, as he called this process, was the forerunner of photomechanical printing processes.

In the summer of 1827, Niepce exposed a pewter plate coated with bitumen in the camera obscura, achieving after some eight hours an image of a dovecote on his estate at Le Gras (pi no. 6). Although he changed from pewter to silver and silver-coated copper plates, and introduced iodine to increase the sensitivity of the silver surface to light, he was unable to decrease substantially the exposure time needed to obtain an image. In his search for improved optical elements for his work, Niepce had contacted the Parisian optical-instrument maker Vincent Chevalier, who in turn acquainted scenic designer and Diorama owner Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre with the nature of the experimentation at Le Gras. Daguerre's parallel interest in obtaining a permanent image in the camera obscura led to contacts with Niepce and resulted in a meeting in 1827 and the signing of a deed of partnership in 1829 to pursue the process together.

Following Niepce's death in 1833, activity shifted to Paris as Daguerre continued to work with iodized silver plates, discarding bitumen altogether. However, he, too, was not notably successful in reducing the time needed for the image to appear until 1835, when he hit upon a phenomenon known as latent development, which means that the photographer does not have to wait to see the image appear on the plate during exposure, but can bring it out by chemical development—in this case, mercury vapor— making possible a radical reduction in exposure time. A problem that remained unsolved was how to stop the continued action of light on the silver halides, which caused the image to darken until it was no longer visible, but in 1837 Daguerre found a way to arrest the action of light with a bath of sodium chloride (common table salt), a method he used until March, 1839, when he learned about the property' of hypo (hyposulphite of soda now called sodium thiosulphite) to wash away uncxposcd silver salts indirectly from its discoverer, the English scientist John Herschel. The daguerreotype, as he called his product, was delicate—easily damaged by fingerprints and atmospheric conditions—and therefore needed the protection of being enclosed in a case under glass (pi. no. 33).

In 1833, at about the same time as Daguerre's early experiments, English scientist and mathematician William Henry Fox Talbot conceived of making a permanent image of what could be seen in the camera obscura:, within two years he had succeeded in obtaining pictures by the action of light on paper treated with alternate washes of sodium chloride and silver nitrate. His first pictures were of flat objects, made by placing leaves, lace, or translucent engravings against the sensitized paper and exposing both to sunlight to produce a tonally and spatially inverted image in monochrome on the paper. Also in 1835, Talbot carried this discovery a step forward when he produced a one-inch-square negative image of his ancestral home, Lacock Abbey (pi. no. 20), made by inserting sensitized paper in a very small camera with a short focal length (the distance between lens and film) for about ten minutes in bright sunshine. To stabilize these early images, Talbot employed either potassium iodide or table salt, but early in 1839 he changed to hypo on Herschels advice. Calling these images "photogenic drawings," Talbot proposed to correct their tonal and spatial inversions by placing another sheet of silver-sensitized paper against the paper negative image (waxed to make it translucent) and exposing both to Eight, but it is doubtful that he actually made such positive prints at this time.

Apart from the profoundly ingenious concept of a negative from which multiple positives could be made, Talbot's most significant invention was latent development, which he arrived at independently in 1840. He sensitized paper by swabbing it with a combination of silver nitrate and gallic acid solutions that he called gallonitrate of silver, exposed it in die camera, removed the seemingly blank paper after a time, and then bathed it in the same chemical solutions until the image gradually appeared. Having reduced exposure time by chemical development to as little as 30 seconds on a bright day, Talbot took out his first patent in February, 1841, for a negative/positive process he called the calotype.

Other Experiments

Widespread interest during the early 19th century in light-related phenomena led to similar experiments by others. Among them was Hercules Florence, a French-born artist who had joined a Russian expedition to the interior of Brazil in 1828. He began to work with paper sensitized with silver salts (the exact composition of which is unknown) in an effort to produce images of drawings by a process he actually called photography (from the Greek phos—light—and graphos—writing)—apparently die first recorded use of the word, which came into general usage in Europe in 1839. Florence and his work were forgotten until 1973, when his journals and examples of his work came to light in Brazil. Also in 1839, Friederike Wilhelmine von Wunsch, a German painter living in Paris, claimed to have come up with a photographic process that produced both miniature and life-size portraits.

In May, 1839, Hippolyte Bayard, a French civil servant, announced a direct positive process for obtaining photographic images on paper, which he achieved by darkening a sheet of paper with silver chloride and potassium iodide, upon which light acted as a bleach when the plate was exposed in the camera. Bayard's contribution was largely ignored at the time, owing to France's official support for the daguerreotype, but since some French photographers evinced strong interest in a paper process in preference to the daguerreotype, experimentation along this line continued.

By 1847, Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard, a leading figure in the improvement of the calotype in France, had developed a method of bathing the paper in solutions of potassium iodide and silver nitrate rather than brushing these chemical baths on the surface, as Talbot had done. Exposed in a damp state (as Talbot's had been), the resulting negative showed improved tonal range because the paper fibers were more evenly saturated.

Further improvements in definition followed when the French painter Gustave Le Gray developed the waxed-paper process—a method of using white wax on the paper negative before it was sensitized. After being immersed in a solution of rice water, sugar of milk, potassium or ammonium iodide, and potassium bromide, and being sensitized in silver nitrate and acetic acid, the paper was ready to use in either damp or dry state. Le Gray's attentiveness to the aesthetics of photography led him to experiment with the timing of various chemical baths in an effort to produce different colorations in his prints.

In 1839 Herschel had suggested glass as a support for negatives, but it was not until 1847 that a procedure evolved for making albumen negatives on glass plates. Claude Felix Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor (a relative of the Niepce brothers) proposed a mixture of eggwhite with potassium iodide and sodium chloride to form a transparent coating on glass, which then was immersed in silver nitrate solution and, after exposure, developed in gallic and pyrogallic acid. A similar process, called Crystalotype, was perfected by the American John Adams Whipple; both processes were slow but produced excellent glass lantern slides.

Those working with glass then turned to collodion—a derivative of guncotton, which became liquid, transparent, and sticky when dissolved alcohol and ether. Experiments with collodion were undertaken by Le Gray and Robert Bingham in France in 1850, but the first practicable directions for using it as a binder for light-sensitive silver salts appeared in 1850 and 1851 in a two-part article in The Chemist written by Frederick Scott Archer, an English sculptor. The viscous collodion, which contained potassium iodide (potassium bromide was later added), was poured evenly onto a glass plate, which was then immersed in a silver nitrate bath to form silver iodide. The exposure time was shortened considerably, but only if the plate was used immediately in its wet state. Because it had to be developed—-usually in ferrous sulphate—while still moist, the "wet plate," as it came to be called, made portable darkrooms for outdoor work a necessity.

Before the collodion process became used exclusively for negatives, it enjoyed a period of popularity in the form of the glass positive, or Ambrotype—as its American version, patented in 1854 by James Ambrose Cutting of Boston, was called. By adding chemicals to the developer and backing the glass negative either with black cloth or black varnish, the image was reversed visually from a negative into a one-of-a-kind positive (pi. no. 53) that usually was presented to the client encased in the same type of frame as a daguerreotype. Sensitized collodion also figured in the production of direct positive images on sheet iron. Known generally as tintype, but also called ferrotype and Melainotype, the process was discovered in 1853 in France and in 1856 in both England and the United States; a dry tintype process was introduced in 1891. Since tintypes were quickly made (requiring just over a minute from start to finish), inexpensive to produce, and easy to send through the mails, they were popular with soldiers during the American Civil War; they continued to be made of and for working-class people into the 20th century.

The same albumen or eggwhite suggested by Niepce de Saint-Victor as a binder for glass negatives was also used to close the pores of photographic printing papers, to prevent silver salts from penetrating the irregular fiber structures or affecting the chemical sizings used in paper manufacture. The first practicable process for making albumen paper, announced in 1850 by Blanquart-Evrard, required coating the paper with a mixture of eggwhite and either table salt or ammonium chloride, after which it was dried and kept until needed. Before exposure, the paper was sensitized by floating it albumen-side down in a strong solution of silver nitrate. After drying, it was exposed in contact with a negative for as long as was needed to achieve a visible image—that is, no chemical developer was used. Blanquart-Evrard also contrived a paper that was chemically developed in gallic acid after exposure with the negative—a procedure that enabled his printing plant in Lille, France, to turn out from 300 to 400 prints a day from a single negative. Fine prints resulted when, after exposure of both negative and sensitized paper in a to paper surface under pressure and necessitating, after the hardening of the gelatin in an alum bath, the trimming of its botders to remove the colored ink that had overrun the edges of the image. A photomechanical, rather than a strictly photochemical procedure, Woodburytype (confusingly called photoglyptie in France) produced rich-looking prints without grain structure of any kind.

Early Equipment

The earliest cameras used by Niepce, Daguerre, and Talbot were modeled on camera obscurae in use since the 17th century. Those of Niepce and Daguerre consisted of two rectangular boxes, one sliding into the other, with an aperture to receive the lens and a place to position the plate. Talbot's first small instruments, referred to as "mousetraps" (pi. no. 218), were crude wooden boxes; later British and French makers provided him with better-crafted instruments that incorporated besides the lens a hole fitted with a cork or brass cover through which one could check focus and exposure. The first commercial photographic camera was designed by Daguerre and was manufactured by Alphonse Giroux (a relative by marriage) from 1839 on (pi. no. 219).



218. Talbot's Mousetrap Camera. In 1839 Talbot made cameras with removable paper-holders (A) . The image produced by the lens (B) on the thin, sensitive paper could be inspected from behind through a hole, which normally was covered by a pivoted brass plate (c).

219. Daguerre-Giroux Camera. Giroux's camera of 1839, based on Daguerre's patent, was the first camera to be sold in any numbers to the public. The lens was fitted with a pivoted cover plate (A), which acted as a shutter. A plaque (B) bore Daguerre's signature and Giroux's seal.


A unique design was made by Alexander S. Wolcott, an American who in 1840 substituted for the lens a concave mirror that produced a brighter image by concentrating the light rays and reflecting them onto the surface of the daguerreotype plate (pi, no. 220). Conical and metal cameras appeared in Austria and Germany in 1841, the same year that a cylindrical instrument enclosed in a wooden box was manufactured in Paris, but these did not catch on. A bellows focusing system for a camera was first suggested in 1839, but did not come into use until 1851 when it was incorporated into a rectangular camera made by the firm of W. and W. H. Lewis in New York. A number of folding cameras, on view first at the Great Exhibition in 1851, with either rectangular or tapered bellows, were manufactured during the 1850s mainly by British firms. By the 1860s many bellows cameras included rising fronts, and swing fronts and backs.
The first arc-pivoted camera, devised in 1844 by Friederich von Martens, was capable of taking a panoramic view of about 150 degrees on a curved daguerreotype plate-measuring approximately 41/2 by 15 inches. Curved glass plates were required for the similar apparatus in use during the collodion era. A Pantascope camera, patented in England in 1862 by John R. Johnson and John A. Harrison, rotated on a circular base, as a holder containing a wet collodion plate was moved by a string and pulley arrangement past an exposing slot.

Photographic accessories such as buffing tools and sensitizing boxes had been necessary for dagucrrcotyping; during the collodion or wet plate era, photographers in the field were required to earn' even greater amounts of additional equipment besides camera and tripod. Portable handcarts and perambulator tents were devised to stow chemicals and apparatus and to allow the photographer to erect a light-tight tent virtually anywhere in order to sensitize plates before exposure and to develop them immediately afterward. The most popular design in England, that of Ernest Edwards, was a type of suitcase mounted on a wheelbarrow or tripod that opened to form a darkroom within a cloth tent.

220. Wolcott Camera. In Wolcott's camera, as patented in 1840, a large, concave mirror (A) was placed at the back of an oblong box. A small, sensitized daguerreotype plate (B) was fitted into a wire frame and was held in place by a spring clip. A surviving example of the camera has, however, a more elaborate holder. The frame could be moved backward and forward on a track (c) to focus the image on the sensitive surface of the plate, which faced the mirror. The exposure was made by opening a door on the camera front. Other doors gave access to the mirror and the plate frame and allowed the focus to be checked. The camera took plates measuring about 2 x 2.5 inches (51 x 64 mm).

The stereoscope, conceived by Charles Wheatstone in 1832 before the invention of photography, originally was a device that permitted a view by means of mirrors of a pair of superimposed pictures that had been drawn as if seen by each eye individually, but appeared to the viewer to be a single three-dimensional image. In 1849, Scottish scientist David Brewster adapted the stereoscopic principle to lenticular viewing, devising a viewer with two lenses placed about 2 1/2 inches apart laterally for viewing the stereograph —an image consisting of two views appearing side by side either on a daguerreotype plate, a glass plate, or on paper mounted on cardboard. Stereographic calotypes were made for viewing by Talbot, Henry Collen, and Thomas Malone after photography was invented. Stereographs and stereoscopes manufactured by the French optical firm of Duboscq and shown at the Great Exposition in 1851 became exceedingly popular and were produced for all tastes and pocketbooks. The viewers ranged from the simple devices invented by Antoine Claudet (pi. no. 223) and Oliver Wendell Holmes (pi. no. 224) to elaborately decorated models for the very wealthy to large stationary floor viewers that housed hundreds of cards that could be rotated past the eyepieces.


223. Claudet Stereoscope. The top opened up to form the back, into which the stereoscopic daguerreotypes (A) were fitted; the lenses (B) were set in telescoping mounts.

224. Holmes-Bates Stereoscope. Joseph Bates manufactured an inexpensive viewer invented in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes; it was sold in this improved form from die mid-i86os until 1939. The stereograph was held on the cross-piece (A), which could be slid up and down the central strip for focusing. A folding handle (B) and a curved eyeshade (c) were fitted.


Stereographic views could be made by moving a single camera laterally, a few inches, but care was needed to make sure that the two images were properly correlated. In 1853, a means of moving the camera laterally along a track was devised. Another method, first described by John A. Spencer in England in 1854, involved moving a plateholder in a stationary camera equipped with an internal septum so that the images did not overlap. During the 1850s, a binocular camera with two lenses was patented in France by Achille Quinet, and a twin-lens stereoscopic camera de-signed by John Benjamin Dancer (pi. no. 225) was offered for general sale in 1856. A number of other designs appeared during the 1860s, including a folding bellows binocular camera made by George Hare and a stereoscopic sliding box camera divided into an upper and lower compartment, each with a pair of lenses, designed by Andre Eugene Disderi (pi. no. 226).

In 1857, David A. Woodward, an American artist, patented a device he called a "solar microscope or magic lantern" for the enlargement of photographic negatives. A mirror fixed at a 45-degree angle to receive the rays of the sun reflected them onto a condensing lens inside a box into which a negative on paper or glass could be fitted, throwing an enlargement of the image onto a sensitized support placed at a suitable distance away. Woodward actively promoted this device in the United States and Europe. Along with a similar apparatus developed by the Belgian scientist Desire von Monckhoven, this forerunner of the enlarger proved to be a significant tool in graphic as well as photographic portraiture.


225. Dancer Camera. Dancer's stereoscopic camera of 1856 had two lenses, which were fitted with a pivoted shutter (A) and with aperture wheels (B). In addition, some models had a lens shade (c) in the form of a pivoted flap. Dry plates could be drawn up, one by one, by means of a screwed rod (D), from a plate-changing box (E). The number on the exposed plate could be read through a window (F).

226. Disderi Camera. Andre Adoiphe Eugene Disderi's stereoscopic camera of c. 1864: the upper compartment was equipped with a pair of lenses (A), which were matched to the taking lenses (B) and were focused on a ground-glass screen (c), fitted in the back of the compartment in the same plane as the plate-holder below. A vertical, sliding shutter (D) was opened by pulling a string (E).


Photojournalism-The Execution of the Lincoln Conspirators

The events that followed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln the Presidential Box at the Ford Theater on the night of April 14, 1865, provided sensational pictorial material for graphic artists and photographers. Sketch artists for the weekly magazines turned out drawings of the theater interior, the death scene, the funeral cortege, and the capture of those involved, but it is the photographs of the individual conspirators, and above all of the hanging of four of them on July 7th, that remain by tar the most vivid representations of this tragedy. The portraits, other than that of Booth, who perished in an ambush during his capture, were made by Alexander Gardner, presumably aboard the ironclad monitors Montauk and Saugns, where the conspirators were held while awaiting trial by a military tribunal. For the views of the actual execution, Gardner set up his camera on a roof overlooking the gallows erected in the courtyard of the Arsenal (or Old) Penitentiary and made a sequence of seven exposures of the preparations for and the hanging of George Atzerodt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, and Mary E. Surratt. This series appears to be the first photographic picture story of an event as it happened, and was all the more remarkable because of the secrecy surrounding the affair. While it was not possible at the time to reproduce these images by halftone in the popular press, this group of photographs signaled the important role that sequential images would play in news reporting in the future.

227. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. John Wilkes Booth, n.d.
Albumen carte-de-visite. International Museum of P
hotography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

Alexander Gardner
(1821 – 1882)  (see collection)

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.

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

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

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

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

232. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.

233. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.

234. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.

235. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.

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

237. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.

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

239. ALEXANDER GARDNER. 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.


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