PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE CIVIL WAR
By Dalia Glazman



Famous Photographers
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After a battle, men are collecting bones of the dead to clean up the area.


There were not too many photographers during the Civil War because it was such a hard job and included a difficult process for creating the products, but there were some very important photographers of that time who provided most of the photos from the Civil War. There were Northern and Southern photographers, both very important to either side of the war, but the photographers from the North have more records and photos taken from the war around now because some of the Southern photographers were forced to get rid of their negatives. People did not want anything to do with all the photos of death and destruction.
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Portrait of Mathew B. Brady



Mathew B. Brady was born in Warren County, New York in 1823. He is known to be the most influential photojournalist of the 19th cen
tury, and Abraham Lincoln’s favoritephotographer. Brady’s photos are most known as documentation of the Civil War and he was the first photographer ever to take pictures of the war.His goal is clearly said in this quote, “My greatest aim has been to advance the art of photography and to make it what I think I have, a great and truthful medium of history. He died on January 15th, 1896.


















George N. Barnard was born in 1819. He moved around
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Portrait of George N. Barnard

New York a lot, changing and moving his studios to other parts of the state and closing them down due to economic issues. He was also a part of other photography firms around 1859. After the Civil War began, Barnard went to work for Brady at his studio and photographed portraits of
people and soldiers. His work was best distinguished as photographs of the ruins and effects the war had on towns. After the end of the Civil War he worked in his own studios and opened a couple more studios on the East Coast. He died on February 4th, 1902.


Alexander Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1821. He was raised by socialists for his whole childhood and journeyed to America in hopes of making it a socialistic country. Befor
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Portrait of Alexander Gardner
e his immigration he was an editor for the Glasgow Sentinel in Great Britain. Gardner soon bought land in Iowa for his family, but never joined them, for he went on to New York where he worked for Mathew B. Brady as his assistant for seven years. His ideas of politics were forgotten because he found a new interest in photography. He managed Brady’s D.C. gallery until the Civil War began in 1861 because he decided to photograph armies in war. After the war, he was the first photographer to publish the Civil War photos in a book titled, “Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War,” and had over a hundred pictures taken by himself and eleven other photographers that were with him during the war. Furthermore, the book did not do too well so he journeyed westwhere he began to photograph the landscape there. He died on December 10th, 1882.

Timothy O’ Sullivan was born in 1840. His first experience in photography was working as an apprentice for Mathew B. Brady during the war, but soon left and began to photogra
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Portrait of Timothy O' Sullivan
ph the battles on his own. He was best known to photograph the preparations and marches of the soldiers and his portion of Gettysburg photos taken when working with Brady. In 1862 he joined Alexander Gardner’s studio and team, and had forty of his own photographs published in Gardner’s book. He was the youngest to be able to have his work published in a book of photography. He died in 1882 of tuberculosis.

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Portrait of George S. Cook



George S. Cook was born in Stamford, CT, 1819 and the most known and influential photographer of the South. He grew up as an orphan and began work as a merchant, but had little success. He moved to New Orleans where he studied art and opened his own gallery. For ten years he traveled around the South. He was most famous for his work of the Ironclad photographs and combat, and also the effects of the war. After the Civil War, he published his work in Richmond, VA. Cook died on November 27th, 1902.

How photography began for the Civil War


There were artists at this time, of course, but since the invention of photography, it began to become more popular, people were more interested in seeing more realistic images. Mathew B. Brady was the first photographer to get the idea to photograph the
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Reporters waiting for the time to take pictures
war. He was already a known photographer when he asked Lincoln if he could follow the troops and take their pictures; he knew this was what people wanted to see. Brady gathered more photographers to join him and they traveled with Union troops and commanders from place to place. Not many people wanted to be photographers due to its difficult process, but some men joined Brady to avoid being drafted. The commencement of this documentation changed history and the way war was looked at by others.

Process of Taking the Photos


During the time of the Civil War, taking a photo was a very tedious and difficult process. Photographers had to carry all their equipment or materials with them wherever they went. Their wagons were where their darkroom was placed and had to be extra careful to not expose the
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World's first combat photo of the Ironclads taken by Cook
ir photo paper to light in those darkrooms. In 1861 a new method of photography was invented called, “wet plate photography,” and co
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Wet plate photography-photographers at work
nsisted of an image being captured with a chemically plastered piece of glass. Also, their cameras were very heavy, and had many components to them, so it was hard to carry them around. The photographers had to take the time to position their cameras before they could take the photo. Then they would have to mix the collodoin chemical that coated the glass so it would be put into the camera. The cap was taken off for a few seconds to be exposed to light and so the image could be captured on the plate. Immediately after this the photographers would run to their darkroom in their wagon to develop the image. More chemicals were added for the image to stay and the glass plate was washed and painted with varnish to protect it. This process always took very long and not many people wanted to obtain the profession.










Layout or Decisions in Taking a Photo

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Famous picture taken by Gardner for it's positioning/set-up

Many photographers were known for their photographs of the aftermath of battles, others more so on their portraits, and others on their pictures of the marching soldiers or their preparations. Photographers tried taking pictures of combat, but normally it was either dangerous for them or hard to capture the moving men. Also, depending on what side the photographer was from they would use their photography as propaganda. After battles, they would photograph the dead soldiers or the effect of the battle. Sometimes they would re-position the dead men and put other props in.This gave the photograph more of a statement and represented the gruesome and most bloodiest war in America.




Watch Civil War Photography on PBS. See more from History Detectives.




Significance of Photography in the Civil War


For the first time in history, people had the chance to see actual pictures from the war. The idea of war having a Victorian-era romance to it vanished once they saw these pictures. The dead, bloody bodies made people feel sick to their stomach and war wasn’t heroic anymore, more so disgusting.
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Dead Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg
Reality struck the onlookers hard because they could see the effect each battle had on innocent people and each attacked city. On the other hand, it inspired other photographers to continue photographing more wars in history. This new way of propaganda and representation of photography made more ideas flow about other technological ideas





Aftermath of Photography


The Civil War was the first and most documented battle of all time. The photographers risked their lives to take decent photos of history occurring right before them, just to document what they were seeing. It was the only recorded and photographed war of the 19th century and compared greatly to other wars in history. There were paintings from the Civil War,but since the demand for photographs was so high, that method was changed significantly. People wanted to see the photos, but after the South lost,
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Ruins of Sherman's Campaign taken by Barnard
their anger was so high that the people did not want to have to see any more photos of their death and destruction that they got rid of all their negatives. The North on the other hand used their documentations as a way to look back and reflect on the battle that changed America forever.








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