Civil War Photos and more

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Greg Heath, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. Greg Heath

    Greg Heath Subscriber

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    I wasn't sure where to put this.

    Last night was one of those evenings where I was sitting in front of the TV watching the History Channel in HD, and should have probably been in the darkroom getting something done, but they had an interesting 4 hour or so show on President Lincoln and his assassination and entombment.

    http://www.history.com/video.do?name=lincoln

    As I watched the show the narrative used the original photos of the time (1860's) to tell the story, and I found an interesting site covering the Civil War's photos. Down on the left side of the page are the Photos from that era.

    http://www.civil-war.net/searchlinks.asp?searchlinks=Photos

    I suppose most of the photos that were made were from Large format cameras, something that I myself I am being drawn to.

    Those old photos to me show so much life. The quality of the photos just really impresses me. The towns, the people, the age, and yet we have these mementos that until I started getting into film, I just didn't ever really appreciate them. Now I just love em. I can't get enough.

    I just thought I would pass along the links..

    Greg
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    The Library of Congress is a great source of photographs of the Civil War, and any other period actually...

    http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwphtml/

    Safe to say that there were only large format cameras at that time...wet plate out in the field.

    Vaughn
     
  3. tac

    tac Member

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    I'm fortunate enough to have two original prints of my Great-Great Grandfather, one in his military uniform, with his saber, Capt. from the 1st W.Va. Cavalry, circa 1864. I believe it's an albumen print, and it's in great shape, 140 -odd years on.
     
  4. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    There were smaller sizes than many realize during this period. The sizes went as follows: whole plate: 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 / Half plate: 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 / quarter plate: 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 / sixth plate: 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 / eighth plate: 2 1/8 x 3 1/4 / ninth plate: 2 x 2 1/2. Anything larger than 11x14 was considered mammoth plate but most typically it was 18x22 or 20x24.
     
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  5. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I almost forgot, there was sixteenth plate also 1 3/8 x 1 5/8
     
  6. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I caught a talk by Ken Burns late last night on C Span. He commented how the lack of photographs from the time before photography made it very difficult for him to make his style of documentaries of things such as the American Revolution and the War of 1812. He said that many of the paintings and drawings from that era were "cartoonish." I thought that was an odd comment given some of the great portraits of Washington, Jefferson, etc. But perhaps those are the exception, and his comment underscores one of the important contributions that photography has made.
     
  7. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Dan, I saw that too. I think the audience was from the Mass. Historical Society. Their questions seemed to be directed to more of their local history than Burn's entire body of work. But he gave an excellent lecture.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    To follow on with this - the vast majority of photos of that period were done on quarter-plate or smaller. I've got a small but growing collection of antique images - I have ONE half-plate tintype, ONE quarter-plate Daguerreotype, and the vast majority of the rest are 1/6 plate images. Another medium that was popular in that day and age was the carte-de-visite - an albumen print pasted on to a piece of card stock with the photographer's information printed on it, and rarely identification of the subject. Most cartes-de-visite are about 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" or thereabouts. This was the normal size image from Brady's studio (one of the cdv's I have is a Brady, from his New York operation). Some of the illusion of size we have of these images comes from seeing the images reproduced in modern books and on tv.
     
  9. Greg Heath

    Greg Heath Subscriber

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    thanks


    thanks for the link..
     
  10. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    While the size of many of the prints were smaller than 4x5, in essence they were still "large" format, if one was to use camera type as the main criteria and the second criteria being individual negatives (as opposed to rolls which did not exist at the time.). I believe many of the small images were made in rather large cameras that had multiple lenses...and that the film was also large with multiple images on each that were then cut down after processing.

    Vaughn
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Matthew Brady was one of the most famous Civil War photographers.

    My great great grandfather fought at Gettysburg. I have his rifle, powder horn, bullet mould, record from the War Dept. regarding is wound, and the ticket he used to the 20th anniversary of the battle held at Gettysburg. I also have the newspaper that notes his enlistment along with his brother. We have photos of him from that era that still survive.

    He was firing his rifle so fast that when he put in the ramrod, the powder ignited and blew the ramrod out, through his hand and he lost a finger. He fought for days with that untreated wound. The War Dept said that since he could continue fighting for several days that way, it was not considered a debilitating wound.

    We had some amazing stories and photos from that era, many now lost, some still preserved. Among the lost are his dental tools (he was the company dentist as a side duty even though he was a carpenter by trade - the army was still the army back then. :smile: Round pegs in square holes.)

    I still have most of his carpentry tools and those of his son, my grandfather, though.

    Just a bit of nostalgic muttering. Sorry.

    PE
     
  12. Greg Heath

    Greg Heath Subscriber

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    Muttering is good...

    I enjoyed your family history. Very interesting. It reminded me of my Cousin when we were kids in Atlanta. Their family had a Civil War rifle handed down through the generations. On the gunstock were carvings of people's names and dates. It was neat seeing that and well as imagining another time and place. Whenever I see a rifle like that it takes me back to those happy times of my childhood.

    Greg
     
  13. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    While yes they did shoot multple images on a larger plate I think they were mainly glass negatives that were then printed on a large sheets of albumen paper. The paper was then cut to size. To cut the glass negative after making the image you are risking tearing and damaging the collodion emulsion. I have seen 1/4 plate and 1/6th plate cameras and it is easy to go smaller buy using an insert in the plate holder. The tintype was probably the most common used in the field as it was the cheapest. But again using a multiplying camera then trying to cut the tin without damaging the tender collodion would seem to present a problem. Multiplying cameras came with anywhere from 2 lenses to 32 lenses. They were a great money maker as they could print 32 images on albumen. Now you could knock out quit a few prints of Lincoln to sell in no time. But to make a tintype or ambrotype I would think they shot single plates. I know how fragile the collodion is on a single plate and how easy it will lift on glass unless you albumenize the edges. I can't imagine trying to cut a sheet into 32 different plates. But then again the high quality of work I've seen from that era nothing would surprise me. I actually got to hold a couple of Gardner's glass negatives of Lincoln when I was at the Archives. They were whole plate negatives.
     
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  15. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    According to one photography book that I read (sorry, don't recall which one) Matthew Brady actually took few, if any, of the Civil War photographs attributed to him. He supposedly owned a studio and hired other photographers to take the photographs in the field, which were sold by Brady in his studio. I think that since the photographers worked for Brady, the photographs were owned by him and bore his name.
     
  16. Photo Engineer

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    Brady had a number of wagons that were mobile darkrooms for making and processing plates.

    He had a lot of people working for him, just as Ansel Adams had many many assistants and associates. Al Weber, who teaches an excellent workshop with David Vestal at the Photograper's Formulary is on such associate. He speaks fondly of his associaton with Ansel Adams. I had a chance to sit with him looking out at the Mission Mountains on our last visit there which coincided as my wife took photos of us and our own Jan Pieterzak (sorry for the spelling Jan) unloaded their van.

    So, yes, this practice is common, but they all hearken back to their mentor. Brady was a mentor of these people and did travel with them.

    We do not use this apprentice or mentoring system much anymore.

    PE
     
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  17. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Dan, That is very true. Brady was going blind and couldn't see very well toward the end of the war. But he had a whole company of photographers working for him. They were so many that they were actually called The Brady Corps. But the name that went on the photographs was Brady's. I think the exception was Alexander Gardner who ran Brady's Washington D.C studio.
     
  18. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    PE. The mobile darkrooms were called " Whatsit Wagons"
     
  19. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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  20. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Although I never heard that name, my friend Mark used to travel through Pennsylvania with such a wagon doing period photos and putting on a "Medicine Show" for Lenape Elixir.

    He still does period photos, teaches workshops, and teaches at George Eastman House.

    PE
     
  21. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    PE. I speak with Mr. Osterman quite often. He is probably one of, if not the foremost authority on wet plate in the country/world. As a matter of fact I will be visiting Mark and France in a couple of months if we can get our schedules to jive. I've heard about the medicine show. I'll try to talk him into giving me a demo.
     
  22. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    As I understand it, by the time of the Civil War Brady's weak eyesight greatly limited what he was able to do personally—another reason why the work was farmed out to photographers working for him.
     
  23. RobertP

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    Charles, As I said before, Brady was losing his eyesight during the time of the war but that wasn't the main reason for farming out the work. He could still take photographs himself but you have to realize that he had probably over 50 photographers working for him in order to cover the various battles going on. Because he wasn't privy to much military intelligence this meant having teams of photographers following the different armies at all times. He spent most of his time coordinating the movements and the work of "The Brady Corps" Not only was he gathering work from the photographers in his employ he also bought work from many local photographers that were present during and after the battles. He could have never developed a body of work this size if he had tried to do this on his own. It was just to bad for him that the public had no interest in reliving the war over again in his photos and what he envisioned as an opportunity to make a profit turned out to leave him broke. He died a penniless drunk.
     
  24. brian d

    brian d Member

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    A true artist:smile:

    Seriously its sad it happened that way
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Well, Alexander Gardner, who had to play second fiddle to Brady for much of his career, outlived Brady and died a rich man. Brady lost out by gambling too much on his war photos. Gardner's DC studio still exists, as a matter of fact, although it is now occupied by a lawyers' association. You can still see the giant skylight facing north in the roof of the building.
     
  26. brian d

    brian d Member

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    Yes but was'nt most of the recognition that Gardner got during his own lifetime more related to his photo's the west?
    I do think he is one of the most under rated photographers of all time and to this day remains under the shadow of Brady