Modern Photography: History Through The Lens


abphoto1 In the twenty-first century, digital cameras and social media launch an almost unceasing barrage of images towards us. We take pictures wherever we go, share images with the click of a button, and replicate them almost endlessly. Therefore, I’ve chosen the images included in this short piece as some of my favourite modern day images related to the Civil War. They align with those same usages of contemporary photography, but illustrate something entirely different. These photographs, taken in the United Kingdom and over 3,000 miles from any major engagement of the Civil War, result from a historical photographer’s desire to preserve the waning art of nineteenth century photography, and a modern photographer’s wish to capture his efforts.


We see two living historians: one portraying a photographer, and another, his subject, portraying a Union soldier. Note the cramped, handcrafted portable darkroom: barely shoulder’s width in diameter. The homemade camera itself is a result of painstaking research. These high-resolution, colour photographs ultimately exhibit the exertion required by their nineteenth century predecessors. Their significance resonates with re-enactors and has contributed to a revival of the vanishing practice. The sesquicentennial commemorations saw the itinerant photographers conduct a business that might have made their forerunners envious. Having your “likeness” made in such a way allows one to appreciate the labourious process. The present-day photographer hovered about, unseen at the time, capturing the premeditation and awkwardness of the procedure. This short series captures not only the act of making a picture, but reveals a tribute to those who cemented photographs as such a humanising archive of the Civil War.


Images courtesy of KevinB.

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