Photography and the American Civil War
NEW YORK • Metropolitan Museum of Art • Ongoing
|Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs—portraits and views—that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. |
Among the highlights of the exhibition is a selection of early wartime portraits of soldiers and officers who sat for their likenesses before leaving their homes for the war front. In these one-of-a-kind images, a picture of American society emerges. The rarest are ambrotypes and tintypes of Confederates, drawn from the renowned collection of David Wynn Vaughan, who has assembled the country’s premier archive of Southern portraits. These seldom-seen photographs, and those by their Northern counterparts, will balance the well-known and often-reproduced views of bloody battlefields, defensive works, and the specialized equipment of 19th-century war.
The exhibition features works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue written by Jeff L. Rosenheim. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and distributed by Yale University Press.
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