Posts Tagged ‘Washington Navy Yard

09
Jul
13

Exhibition: ‘Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront’ at the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 1st August 2012 – 31st July 2013

 

Many thankx to the Smithsonian Castle for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“It is very strange that I, a boy brought up in the woods, seeing as it were but little of the world, should be drifted into the very apex of this great event.”

.
Abraham Lincoln, on the Civil War, July 1864

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Ambrotype of a washerwoman for the Union Army in Richmond' c. 1865

 

Anonymous photographer
Ambrotype of a washerwoman for the Union Army in Richmond
c. 1865
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

A box of gun cotton (cotton treated with nitric acid) carrying the brand name "Anthony's Snowy Cotton," a photo processing supply that a Civil War-era photographer might use in the field to create collodion photographs.

 

A box of gun cotton (cotton treated with nitric acid) carrying the brand name “Anthony’s Snowy Cotton,” a photo processing supply that a Civil War-era photographer might use in the field to create collodion photographs.
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

'This Civil-war era photo album of American political and military figures was owned by Karl Schenk, president of Switzerland' 1865

 

This Civil-war era photo album of American political and military figures was owned by Karl Schenk, president of Switzerland
1865
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

Anonymous photographer. 'A book of illustrated personal portraits from the Civil War era' c. 1861-65

 

Anonymous photographer
A book of illustrated personal portraits from the Civil War era
c. 1861-65
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

 

A photo exhibit to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront, opens in the Smithsonian Castle August 1st 2012 and it continues for a year. Advancements in photography brought the conflict close to home for many Americans and the exhibit features a stereoview and a carte-de-visite album of Civil War generals.

During the Civil War the Castle served as a home for the Smithsonian Secretary’s family and a place of learning and collecting. The exhibit displays excerpts from the diary from the daughter of the Secretary Joseph Henry. Mary Henry recorded the comings and goings of soldiers to the Castle use of its towers to observe advancing soldiers and the state of Washington after Lincoln’s assassination.

Also featured are Smithsonian employee Solomon Brown (1829-1906) and the lecture hall that hosted a series of abolitionist speakers; it was destroyed by fire in 1865. Stereoviews, a form of 3-D photography that blossomed during that era, daguerreotypes, tintypes and ambrotypes – all emerging types of photography – are highlighted in the exhibit to explore the ways photography was used to depict the war, prompt discussion and retain memories.

The exhibit features a range of Civil War-era photographic materials from Smithsonian collections, including cameras, stereoviewers, albums and portraits, alongside photographs of soldiers and battlefields. Highlights include an ambrotype portrait of an African American washerwoman, carte-de-visite (a type of small photo) album of Civil War generals, an 11-by-4-inch-view camera and equipment and an examination of the emergence of battlefield photography and photojournalism.

Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront is a joint exhibition produced by the Smithsonian and the Civil War Trust and is sponsored by the History channel. For more information visit the Civil War website.

Press release from the Smithsonian Castle website

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."]' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in “The devil’s den.”]
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]' 3rd October 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]
3rd October 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]' (detail) 3rd October 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers] (detail)
3rd October 1862

 

Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign was one of the first to use photography as a political tool 1860

 

Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign was one of the first to use photography as a political tool
1860
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882). '[Fort Pulaski, Ga. The "Beauregard" gun]' April 1862

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
[Fort Pulaski, Ga. The “Beauregard” gun]
April 1862
1 negative (2 plates) : glass, stereograph, wet collodion
Two plates form left (LC-B811-0197A) and right (LC-B811-0197B) halves of a stereograph pair
Photograph of the Federal Navy, and seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy – specifically of Fort Pulaski, Ga., April 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882). '[Richmond, Va. Grave of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, with temporary marker]' Richmond, April-June 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Richmond, Va. Grave of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, with temporary marker]
Richmond, April-June 1865

 

James F. Gibson. '[James River, Va. Deck and turret of U.S.S. Monitor seen from the bow (ie. stern)]' 9th July, 1862

 

James F. Gibson (American, 1828-1905)
[James River, Va. Deck and turret of U.S.S. Monitor seen from the bow (ie. stern)]
9th July, 1862
1 negative (2 plates): glass, stereograph, wet collodion

 

A magnified view of a photo looking through a single lens viewfinder of a Civil War-era stereoviewer

 

A magnified view of a photo looking through a single lens viewfinder of a Civil War-era stereoviewer (featuring an image in the same series as the one above)
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Lewis Payne, the conspirator who attacked Secretary Seward, standing in overcoat and hat]' April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Lewis Payne, the conspirator who attacked Secretary Seward, standing in overcoat and hat]
April 1865
Glass, wet plate colloidon

 

Matthew Brady & Co., 'Petroleum Nasby (David Ross Locke)' 1865

 

Matthew Brady & Co.,
Petroleum Nasby (David Ross Locke)
1865
Albumen photograph

An 1865 carte-de-visite portrait – a highly collectible albumen photograph on a small card – featuring American humorist Petroleum Nasby, pseudonym of David Ross Locke. Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

 

 

Smithsonian Castle
1000 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC 20004, United States

Opening hours:
8.30am – 5.30pm daily

Smithsonian Castle website

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06
Dec
12

Public talk: ‘This is not my favourite photograph’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan part of ‘What makes a great photograph?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy

Wednesday 5th December 2012

 

We were asked to choose our favourite photograph, one that we could nominate as a great photograph. I chose a slightly different take on proceedings.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to my fellow speakers for their talks and to Director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography Naomi Cass for inviting me to speak at a wonderful evening. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

This is not my favourite photograph

A minute’s silence…

 

This is not my favourite photograph
Nor may it be a great photograph…
More interestingly to me, it is a remarkable photograph – one that you are able to make remarks on.

It is also a photograph that has haunted me for years.

.
Taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865, this photograph is a portrait of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which had happened the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. Paine was executed in July 1865 just eight short weeks later.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865

 

 

This is the triptych of photographs by Gardner in the form they are usually displayed, like a three-panel renaissance altar-piece. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement.

The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is just like Justin Beiber’s.

Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate?

He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his cell?

And finally his clothing – is it navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states.

 

Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell

 

Noel Cordle
Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell
Posted on September 5th, 2010
Mere Musings blog [Online] Cited 01/12/2012 no longer available online

 

 

There’s even a web page dedicated to him on “hot dead guys” where there’s that awkward moment when one of Lincoln’s conspirators is so sexy its ridiculous…

He wasn’t all bad. Biographers of Powell describe him as a quiet, introverted boy who enjoyed fishing and caring for sick and injured animals. Apparently, Lewis was an intelligent, sensitive, soul with great potential.

 

Descriptions of Lewis from "The Life, Crime and Capture"

 

Descriptions of Lewis from “The Life, Crime and Capture”

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

.

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Lewis Paine (detail)
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

Could we say that he is left-handed given the different size of his fingers (?)

 

Roland Barthes. 'Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)' 1980

 

Roland Barthes (French, 1915-1980)
Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)
1980

 

 

Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida said in Section 39: “He is dead and he is going to die…

“The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say:

Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

 

 

One reading of his gaze is that he is really interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future.

Given his fate is he insane because of his interest?

What is really going on in his mind – what is his perspective?

Another reading could be as looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way.

And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find quite mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject.

Was it fear that stopped him getting any closer or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

What brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques through which human beings constitute themselves, “Technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”1

As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. What Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

I wonder, did Gardner ever show him the finished photographs before he died?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here [points to head and heart], where past, present and future coalesce into single point in time – his death and our death are connected through his gaze, the knowledge of our discontinuity. Eons contracted into an eternal moment.

In this moment in time, what we are doing is we are making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. We are moving towards a language that defines the human condition…

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

But ultimately language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable.

This photograph inhabits you, it haunts you like few others.

Early Wittgenstein described a world of facts pictured by thoughts. he said, “Don’t Think, But Look!”

I would add “Don’t think, but feel and look”

.
This photograph is a memoriam to a young man and his present death.
As such it is a REMARKABLE photograph that haunts us all.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan
December 2012

 

Postscript

George Cook. 'Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,' 8th September 1863

 

George Cook (American, 1819-1902)
Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,
8th September 1863
Photo courtesy of the Cook Collection, Valentine Richmond History

 

 

George Cook’s photograph of Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C., believed to be the world’s first combat photograph. Monitors engage Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, South Carolina. Photographed from one of the Confederate emplacements, the ships are identified as (from left to right): Weehawken, Montauk and Passaic. The monitor on the right appears to be firing its guns. Date is given as 8 September 1863, when other U.S. Navy ships were providing cover for Weehawken, which had gone aground on the previous day. She was refloated on the 8th after receiving heavy gunfire from the Confederate fortifications.

 

Kilburn Brothers. 'Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard' c. 1866

 

Kilburn Brothers (Edward and Benjamin Kilburn, American)
Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard
c. 1866
Ships are (from left to right): USS Mahopac, USS Saugus, USS Montauk (probably), and either USS Casco or USS Chimo
Photo mounted on a stereograph card, marked: “Photographed and published by Kilburn Brothers, Littleton, N.H.”

 

Anonymous photographer. ''Montauk' at left, and 'Lehigh' at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania' c. late 1902 or early 1903

 

Anonymous photographer
‘Montauk’ at left, and ‘Lehigh’ at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania
c. late 1902 or early 1903
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Saugus, in Trent's Reach on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

 

Anonymous photographer
Saugus, in Trent’s Reach on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note the mine sweeping “rake” attached to her bow
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

 

Anonymous photographer
Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note ship’s bell and other details of the turret and deck fittings
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

 

 

1. Foucault, Michel. “Technologies of the self,” in L. H. Martin, H. Gutman and P. H. Hutton (eds.). Technologies of the self. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, p.18 quoted on Wikipedia. “Technologies of the Self.” [Online] Cited 23/06/2010.

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96

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