Snapshots in History

May 29, 2008
By Skylar Lane, Palm Desert, CA

Imagine yourself, standing on the sidelines of a battlefield for thirty minutes; awaiting to take a photograph that will last a lifetime. The Civil War was the third war in history to be caught on camera. If there weren't any photographers to capture those life-threatening moments, none of the people today would actually have a visible perspective of how the was was fought. If you think about it, photographs are proof of history.

If you were to look at every photo taken during the Civil War, you would not find a single photograph of an action scene. The reason for this is because,"it was too risky for the individual photographers"(Metropolitan Museum of Art) as well as it taking too long for the photographs to be captured. If they were to be taken during an action scene, the photo would turn out too blurry for anyone to recognize what it is. Some examples of pictures taken are photos of the Union Officers and Soldiers, Confederate Officers and Soldiers, Infantry Groups, Naval Officers, and Cavalry Units.

Compared to today, photographers used a much longer process to take and develop a photograoh druing the Civil War. In order to take a photograph, you would have to have two people. One person would need to mix the chemicals together and pour them on a clean glass plate. Then they would need to let the chemicals evaporate. After that, the glass plate would become sensitive to light by being "bathed" in a solution called collodian. The other person, the photographer, would then expose this glass plate to where he/she wants the picture to be captured. The glass plate stands for fifteen to thirty seconds and is then rushed into the "development tent". Soon after, you are ready to make copies of the scene you recently captured.

Mathew B. Brady was a man who was viewed as the "father of photojournalism". He was the photographer that stood out of the Civil War because of his commmitment and success of his job. He mastered photography when he was in his twenties and spent his own money to take pictures of the war. Mathew B. Brady once said about hsi private New York City Studio, "From the first, I regarded myself as under obligation to my country to preserve the faces of its historic men and mothers." Mathew B. Brady had a significance to the Civil War and photography itself. He introduced many other famous photographers to this fine art and is a legend today.

Photographs are truthfully what proved history. If it weren't for photographs, none of us, as a nation would understand the true meaning of the Civil War, We wouldn't know how bad the raging battles really were, nor would we fully understand that when we looked around, many lives were being affected. To me, photographs are really what helped us not as much then, but now.

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