Friday, February 26, 2016

The American Civil War Then and Now

WOW  This is REALLY incredible - click on the link and see the pictures of WHEN and then it magically transitions to NOW!  Including awesome quotes from real people!

Don't miss this opportunity to see these awesome pictures!!

Guardian photographer David Levene travelled across the US photographing the sites scarred by the American civil war
Blasts from the past: photographing the American civil war in 2015
The American civil war then and now – interactive

Hagerstown Pike, Antietam, scene of the Battle of Antietam, September-October 1862. Photograph: Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress/David Levene for the Guardian

I was wading into the North Anna river, camera in hand, trying not to get sucked downstream by the current. In my hand was a 150-year-old photo by Timothy O’Sullivan of a group of Union soldiers bathing in the North Anna towards the end of the American Civil War. I had been warned that the bridge O’Sullivan stood on for his picture was gone, and halfway across the water, I realised that there was no way I could achieve his vantage point and re-create the shot.
My journey had begun a week earlier in Washington DC. Armed with a sheaf of large-format prints of 23 original photographs of the American civil war, my plan was to take my own photos from exactly the same spots. The camera position, height, lens angle and perspective all needed to be as close as possible to the original, to give a sense of how these historic sites have transformed.

The war began around 20 years after the birth of practical photography so the medium was in its infancy. Photojournalism or documentary photography had yet to be conceived, and the photographers who took their cameras to the battlefields were the first of their kind.
Matthew Brady, the godfather of early American photography, produced his defining work during the war. He had teams of people working for him on location (photographers such as O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner), each with their own wagons, travelling darkrooms, wet-plates, processing kit and staff. All of the photographs were captured on glass plates and had to be processed immediately using a mobile darkroom. Later they would be viewed using stereoscopes, so that they appeared 3D.
Civil war photographers were keen to include people in their photographs wherever possible – even to the extent of dragging bodies of dead soldiers into shot. Typical exposures lasted one or two seconds, so “set-ups” were commonplace in order to avoid motion-blur in the photographs. I knew that my photographs would also be more engaging if there were modern-day people occupying the same spaces as the soldiers, so I would set up my tripod and click away as the scene developed in front of me, waiting for an ideal composition.
Some of the shots were trickier to re-create than others. Photographing the McLean House at Appomattox, Virginia, where Robert E Lee finally surrendered his Confederate army on 9 April 1865, was a struggle. The house was bought in 1891 by a firm which dismantled its 80,000 bricks planning to rebuild it in Washington DC as a tourist attraction. The company went bust and never realised its vision, and in 1948 the house was reconstructed from its architectural drawings. It’s now in exactly the same place as the original ... within one or two feet.

Brady invested over $100,000 of his own money to produce some 10,000 plates during the war. He hoped that the US government would purchase the entire archive, and when they refused he went bankrupt; $25,000 for the entire collection from the Library of Congress didn’t clear his debts, and by the end of his life Brady was blind and penniless. He died alone in the charity ward of a hospital in New York City.
Today, each glass negative has been scanned and stored at the Library of Congress in high resolution. They present a picture of the civil war in razor-sharp detail – a peek into the wartorn America of 150 years ago.

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