American Civil War by Mathew Brady

Mathew Brady created the idea that photography was an important part of Civil War. He devoted a large portion of his life to document the terrors of war in his photography, and he was a success. He was the first to make people realize the truth of war and how devastating it was. He brought the war to them. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle first experimented with what we now call photography. He found that an object’s silhouette could be shown by placing it in front of a light that is shining through a small hole. Then, in the 1500’s in Italy, a man built the camera obscure, a very simple camera. With just an eyepiece and lens, it relied on a group of mirrors to create an image inside a box. Finally the camera as we know it today began to take shape. Joseph Nicephore Niepce, in 1826, created the idea of using a plate covered in chemicals. This replaced the camera obscura, which had no way of recording what image was taken. He exposed the plate for eight hours, and found a perfect image that showed the scene he had captured.

Then, in 1836, Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the Morse Code, introduced daguerreotypes to Brady. They were invented by Louis J. M. Daguerre, which exposed the plates to different chemicals. They had to endure a lot of handling, which is why they were covered with these chemicals. By the 1860’s, daguerreotypes were out of style, and using negatives was all the rage. By using negatives, one could create multiple copies from a single negative. Negatives also eliminated the long process of taking many pictures of the subject or photographing the picture to get multiple copies that was achieved by using negatives. In 1888, George Eastman created the Kodak camera. There were many advantages to this camera; for example, amateurs and people other than photographers could use them. Also, it used a roll of film that could be processed by their photographers rather than plates. With the camera, pictures could be “saved” on the roll.

Brady studied photography under a number of teachers, including Samuel F. B. Morse, the man who had recently introduced photography to America. Brady quickly discovered a natural gift. By 1844, he had his own photography studio in New York. Brady soon acquired a reputation as one of America’s greatest photographers – producer of portraits of the famous. In 1856, he opened a studio in Washington, D.C., the better to photograph the nation’s leaders and foreign dignitaries. As he himself said, “From the first, I regarded myself as under obligation to my country to preserve the faces of its historic men and mothers.” He became one of the first photographers to use photography to chronicle national history. At the peak of his success as a portrait photographer, Brady turned his attention to the Civil War. Planning to document the war on a grand scale, he organized a corps of photographers to follow the troops in the field. Friends tried to discourage him, citing battlefield dangers and financial risks, but Brady persisted. He later said, “I had to go. A spirit in my feet said ‘Go,’ and I went.” Mathew Brady did not actually shoot many of the Civil War photographs attributed to him. …