Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings

By Mary Ann Calo | Go to book overview

NOTES

From Representations (Winter 1985). © The Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of the author.

I wish to thank the Wilson Center and the Rockefeller Foundation for their generous support during the research for and the writing of this essay; Joe Thomas, chief of the Still Picture Branch of the National Archive, for his gracious sharing of information; and especially Jerald C. Maddox, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, for helpful advice and many acts of kindness.

1.
This limitation seems the result of the cumbersome wet-plate process, which made photographing on the field awkward and dangerous. See Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene ( 1938; reprint: New York, 1964), Reese Jenkins, Image and Enterprise ( Baltimore, 1975), and Doug Munson, "The Practice of Wet-Plate Photography," in The Documentary Photograph as a Work of Art ( Chicago, 1976), 33-38. For an argument that distant and high perspectives and lack of closeup views typical of the war photographs represent not technical limitations but a set of pictorial conventions, see Joel Snyder, "Photographers and Photographs of the Civil War," ibid., 17-22. But see "Photographs from the High Rockies," Harper's New Monthly Magazine ( September 1869), 465: "The battle of Bull Run would have been photographed 'close-up' but for the fact that a shell from one of the rebel field-pieces took away the photographer's camera."
2.
Of course cinema and video must also be included as photographic media. Even before D. W. Griffith The Birth of a Nation ( 1915) the Civil War was one of the most popular themes of early cinema. See Jack Spears , The Civil War on the Screen and Other Essays ( New York, 1977), and Paul G. Spehr, et al., The Civil War in Motion Pictures ( Washington, D.C., 1961).
3.
See Pat Hodgson, Early War Photography ( Boston, 1974). Also, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, Roger Fenton: Photographer of the Crimean War ( London, 1954).
4.
See Eric Foner, "The Causes of the American Civil War: Recent Interpretations and New Directions," in Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War ( New York, 1980), 15-33. For a brief incisive discussion of the war in a world context see David M. Potter , "The Civil War in the History of the Modern World: A Comparative View," in The South and the Sectional Conflict ( Baton Rouge, 1968), 287-99.
5.
Francis Trevalyan Miller, ed., The Photographic History of the Civil War ( New York, 1912) 1: 16. The total number of photographs reproduced in these volumes is about 3,800. Ideological uses of Civil War photographs to propagate one or another version of the war, especially in the decades just after the introduction of half-tone reproduction in the 1880s, awaits serious study.
6.
George Haven Putnam, "The Photographic Record as History," ibid., 60.
8.
The suggestion that photography might be of use to the War Department seems first to have been broached by the American Photographical Society, an amateur group, in 1861. The proposal seems to have floundered, and Brady then organized his own private venture. See William Welling, Photography in America: The Formative Years, 1839-1900. A Documentary History ( New York, 1978), 150.
9.
The entire photographic project related to the war remains to be sorted out. See Josephine Cobb, "Mathew B. Brady's Photographic Gallery in Washington," The Columbia Historical Society Records ( 1953-54), 28-69; "Alexander Gardner," Image 7 ( 1958), 124-36; "Photographers of the Civil War," Military Affairs 26 (Fall 1962), 127-35; Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene; "M. B. Brady and the Daguerreotype Era," American Photography 29 ( 1935), 486-98, 548-60; Paul Vanderbilt, Guide to the Special Collections of Prints & Photographs ( Washington, D.C., 1955), 18-25. The most ambitious effort so far to assign names, places, and dates to specific photographs can be found in the remarkably meticulous studies by William A. Frassanito: Gettysburg: A Journey in Time ( New York, 1975), Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America's Bloodiest Day ( New York, 1978), Grant and Lee: The Virginia Campaigns, 1864-1865 ( New York, 1983).

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