The Photography of the US Civil War.

August 27, 2013

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“Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.”
The New York Times on Oct. 20, 1862

The great US Civil War historian Shelby Foote, once commented that the Civil War fundamentally changed the US linguistically from ‘the United States are…‘ to ‘the United States is…‘. A rather perfect outline of the result of the war. But there’s another interesting result of the conflict. The Civil War also introduced photography to journalism.

Lincoln recognised the power of photography, having joked that he may never have been re-elected without Mathew Brady’s portrait. Lincoln knew by 1865 the importance of photography, because its use in the US Civil War helped to diminish northern support for the Union forces, the moment hundreds of photographers invaded the battlefield at the end of a battle.

It was one thing to read letters from the front line (this also struck a blow to Northern support for the war, given the growth of the postal service at this time), but it was a completely different thing to see broken and torn corpses strewn across the battlefield, from a quiet house in northern towns and cities, far from the frontlines. The birth of Photojournalism at this point brought images of hell, to every American house in the country.

Today, they give us an incredible documentation of that four year period that cost so many lives, made so many political careers, and gave birth to ‘the United States is…‘.

Here are a few that caught my attention. Click the images, for larger versions.

A Confederate soldier, killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse:

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The inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 1861:

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Union War General, and 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S.Grant. 1863:

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Confederate troops killed at Antietam:

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A slave family on a cotton plantation in Georgia:

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President Lincoln, with the Glaswegian Allan Pinkerton on the left, and Union General John McClernand:

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A regiment in formation, in Missouri:

formation

The 8th New York State Militia:

Landscape

Confederate Commander Robert E.Lee:

lee

Union Troops at Fredericksburg:

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Union General, and scorched Earth enthusiast, William Tecumseh Sherman:

Sherman-Horseback

Confederate Soldiers killed, at Spotsylvania Court House. 1864:

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The camp of the 31st Pennsylvania Infantry, outside of Fort Slocum. 1862. A lot of wives and children insisted on joining their husbands at camp:

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Confederate Soldiers of Louisiana’s Washington Artillery, preparing for the Battle of Shiloh. 1862:

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President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

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A Union camp:

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The flag of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves. 1864:

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Civil War Photography was used for a duel purpose. Firstly, we see from the horrendous images of those killed in battle, those young men who lost their lives so early, for a war that shaped the US ever since; as the New York Times pointed out in 1862, those images brought the horrors of war to the doorstep of every American. Secondly, the photography of the Civil War was used to create heroes out of its leaders. Tecumseh Sherman is sitting mightily, back straight, in a leadership pose atop his horse, in eerily similar pictures to early paintings of George Washington similarly used to convey a sense of majesty and honour. Similar images from the Mathew Brady collection show us Lincoln, as a towering figure, looking purposeful. Civil War photography helped propel the face of Ulysses Grant into the minds of millions. Photojournalism was a key component of the US Civil War and its legacy can be seen whenever we are presented with the horrors of war and conflict, and the images of World leaders appearing to look determined and thoughtful. US Civil War Photojournalism is an often forgotten, but vastly important contribution to the modern World.


We are the stars…

November 5, 2011

There is a sort of innate beauty in reflection. The mind can be a rather chaotic place, and reflection is a curious calming influence.

Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that there is no God. I came to the conclusion that there is no after life. I came to the conclusion that this life, is what is important. It means, as difficult as it may be, living in the moment is the only important part of life. As i’ve discovered, living for the future is extremely destructive. One has to be impulsive, and take a chance. This is how memories are made. It doesn’t mean I have to make a great impact on the World, or that I need to somebody important; it simply means that understanding the absurdity of trying to find order or meaning or purpose in a chaotic, indifferent universe, is the route of all worry, and the route of all fear, and once you come to terms with your life as being a part of that absurdity, it is truly enlightening. You realise that this life, is decidedly important. I am the product of 250,000 years of human evolution. I am the product of fourteen billion years of universe expansion. I am, quite literally, the product of star dust. It is simply awe inspiring to know that the material that makes up my left arm, could have come from a distant star explosion, and a completely different part of the universe, to the material that makes up my right arm. We are made from the same ‘stuff’ that makes everything.
We are the stars. Everything is connected. We all come from the same pin point. A split second before the big bang, from something that makes a single grain of sand look like the Empire State Building. We are the Universe trying to understand itself. This, is beautiful.

When I notice someone or something that I consider to be beautiful; I get a sort of rush of adrenaline. We are all the same. Beauty is innate. I want to understand what it is that makes that person, or that thing, who or what they are. I want to know their favourite colour. Or what they dream at night. To know that everything is so tightly connected, is to open the doors to curiosity. It simply makes you want to learn about everything and everyone, because by doing so, it enriches yourself. I want to tell them that I am over awed by the fact that nature has, in all its infinite possibilities, of everything it could have produced, of the millions of possibilities offered by DNA, achieved as close to perfection as is possible. Words are my way of articulating to someone that I am taken in by their beauty. Photography is my way of capturing what I consider to be beauty and sharing it. By photographing something, I am saying to people “this is what I love”.

Reflection on all you see, and all you know, and the nostalgia that it naturally produces, is a product of the mind. The mind is a product of everything that came before me. Reflection has therefore, an in-built beauty. I thought I would share a few photos, that I have taken on my travels, to attempt to highlight the experiences that I feel have moulded me into the person I am. They aren’t supposed to be the most artistic photos. Simply photos that I felt a great need to capture, and that almost always figure, somehow, into my reflective periods. These are the constants. The concepts that anchor me to a certain path.

This is Rome. The Esquiline hill. The Maecenas gardens once rose beautifully on this hill. It is sort of overwhelming, to understand the spectacular history of an infamous culture, and to stand in its centre. Millions and millions of people will never get that opportunity. I did. That amazes me.

Quite possibly, one of my favourite spots in Rome. I am sure you can see why.

My first real taste of how vastly human understanding of the World is different, depending on what part of the Earth you stand on. Istanbul taught me that no one is truly individual. We all succumb to abstractions. Istanbul’s larger than life abstraction, is Islam.

The Blue Mosque made me realise just what humanity can produce, if it tries. What an incredible building. To think that we have minds, that if cultivated properly, can produce buildings like the Blue Mosque and its incredible prayer area and dome, or produce scientists like Newton. Or writers like Hemmingway. To know, we all have minds made from the same substance, has to be the most inspiring incentive known to man.

Spring is my favourite season. Bradgate park is a place I have been going to since I was a baby. I remember being in the car, and driving down the road toward the entrance, knowing the brightly decorated little ice cream shop was only over the next hill. My curiosity at the fact that deers ACTUALLY exist and are not just a product of Disney. I learned to love the smell of freshly cut grass, at Bradgate. I’d toddle over to feed the ducks. They’d eat it. I’d laugh. This picture to me, epitomises spring and Bradgate. As a kid, I loved it. And this guy, as an old man, is drawn to playing, like a child again.

There is nothing more in life, that makes you feel as if you’re in a romantic French film, than sitting on an underground Metro to Montmartre, and having a French violinist play right next to you. You intertwine the sound of the violin, with the sound of the train, and the scene changes and suddenly you’re walking through the Parisian streets with the stars, like tiny holes poked in a black canvas flickering subtly above. This is what Paris does to you.

This is the south coast of Devon, on a Spring morning. I try to do this at least once a year. My grandparents spent much of their 60 years together, on the south coast of Devon. There is something surreal, in sitting on your own, in the morning, overlooking a calm day, where the sea seems to blend into the sky, and the tiny ripples emphasise the calmness, knowing your grandparents did the same thing 50 years before. I feel connected to this place. I struggle to convey to people why it holds such importance to me.

And this is my serene place. Also on the south coast of Devon. It is the most tranquil spot on Earth for me. I sit on the cliff that goes out to see, preferably at sun rise, as one or two people walk their dogs on the beach, and all you hear is the sound of the waves. It is the place where all my thinking gets done. It is the only place, where I can quite easily forget about everything. This is where I look out, and feel blessed to have ever had the chance to be born, knowing that the gift of life, is so improbable, and exists in such a fleeting moment in time, less than a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the universe; this is the magic of existence. One does not need a God, to feel a sense of objective beauty. One needs simply to be.


The Great British Holiday.

October 1, 2011

It is the end of September, and here in England, it is filled with blue sky and sun shine. We felt the hottest September 30th, for over 100 years yesterday. I spent this hot day, at Weston-Super-Mare on the South West coast of England.

Every English man and woman cannot help but have an unbreakable love for the great British holiday. Blackpool, Weston, Camber Sands, Torquay, Skegness, Weymouth, the list goes on, and the truly iconic names that you associate with these holidays; Haven, Butlins, Pontins, make it something of a nostalgia for those of us who lived it as children year on year. They are an entirely different variety of holiday, from the typical hotel and beach get-away on the Costa-del-sol.

Thankfully, I was still a kid before Butlins introduced all its updates, so I remember the retro style. The old redcoats, and the glamorous granny competitions. The nobbly knees and the talent shows. The entertainment teams in the club house performing Grease. Punch and Judy on the beach. I would wake up in the caravan, to the smell of mum cooking bacon and sausage, sit on the patterned velvet sofas for breakfast, loaded with excitement for the day. The beach shops that had cheap multicoloured footballs and long inflatable dingy’s, with their buckets and spades and their flip flops on sale on the racks outside the shop, as you walked around them with an 99-er in your hand, had the unique ability to make a kid think they were at the end of a rainbow.

The club house would put on productions of musicals every night, but one night a week you’d be treated to a magician, or a comedian. Even by the 1990s, the comedians weren’t the comedians that Butlins and Pontin’s were famed for putting up; there was no slightly risky comedian telling subtle blue jokes. No Bernard Manning’s. But it offered something different. Cheesy posters would be up around the camp site a few nights before, advertising some overly tanned slick back grey haired, sparkly golden waist coated singer gracing us with his presence in a few nights. It came around once a year, and you loved it when it did.

It all started in the 1940s, because air travel, and holidaying abroad was the luxury of the super rich. And so an entire industry grew up on the most popular beaches in the UK. They developed an aura of their own, that has never died. The Grand Pier at Weston has stood since 1904. For over 100 years, the Great British Holiday has triumphed.

And we’d have no Bobby Davro or Shane Richie without the Pontin’s blue coats……. think about a World without Bobby Davro and Shane Richie. Hell, isn’t it.

As a kid you’d learn to fall in love with the music from the 2p machines, and the horse racing machine. Put 10p on red. Red wins. Win 20p. Run and tell mum that you’re now incredibly rich. Turn 20p into ten 2p’s. Put 2p’s in 2p machine. Watch 2p’s balance right on the tip. Push them over. You’ve now spent 18p of your 20p’s worth of 2p’s, but you’ve wont 4p back. Score!

By the look of Weston Super Mare yesterday, the Great British Holiday, with all the memories for years past, is still thriving. This is great to see.

A few of my photos from Weston-Super-Mare can be seen here.

Here are my memories from the Great British Holidays of the later 1980s and 1990s.

I believe here, i’m waiting for Punch and Judy to start on Weymouth beach.

My dad and sister. Weymouth.

Me, my mother, and Penny. I’m sure this is Devon. 1987?

This is definitely Devon, because that Sooty machine is still there.

My dad (whom I clearly get my lack of hair now, from), Alf (whom I still have. He’s treasured) and me in my damn cool shades, chilling.

70s dad!

Me and my dad.

Weymouth beach would not be the same, without donkey rides. When I was the age I am in the photo, I thought the donkeys were huge. Yesterday, at Weston, they were tiny. How perspectives change.

Me and my mother, watching Punch and Judy. 1990? Possibly 1989. Why did all women in the 1980s insist on having perms?

Me and my dad. 1986. He still has that horseshoe hair. 25 years later.

Weston-Super-Mare, yesterday. Me and my friend Lucy.


An Australian trip

July 17, 2011

It is surprising that I am not a Mark Rothko fan. I find his work to be easy and tedious. I feel nothing when I look at his work. It doesn’t overwhelm me, in the way that a Rembrandt, or a Caravaggio does. Yet, what he is trying to convey – a sense of calm – in nature, I find to be breathtaking. The photo below, I took yesterday somewhere along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. It’s difficult not to think “Rothko” when you see it. Yet it possesses something that Rothko just couldn’t create. Perhaps something that man can’t create.

Rothko simply fails to grasp hold of this sense of beauty in his works.

Here are a few photos I have taken on my second trip to Australia. Enjoy.

Ash bought me this incredible coat, as an early birthday/christmas gift. It is actually the greatest coat ever made. This was taken on a steam boat on the Murray River. Ash booked a gorgeous weekend away in Moama.

Our room in Moama, complete with a fire place, and a spa.

A shack on the Murray River.

Claire and Mark!

Ahmed, Geoff, Kerry, Ash and me.

North Melbourne V Collingwood, at the MCG.

Mr Geoff, in front of Flinders St, in Melbourne.

There will be more to come!
And be sure to check out my other photography: Futile Photographer.


A snapshot of thought

January 31, 2011


Taken in Istanbul, in 2007.
Taken using a Canon 400D.
———————————————————

I am carrying a notebook around recently. Taking little notes of anything that catches my eye and trying to write down what I see, as if I were taking a photo of it. A snapshot of thought. Like the photo above, not considered, or edited, or planned, or thought about in detail; just a quick note. It appeals to me, because it doesn’t take much artistic creativity. It requires just a pen and paper. I can take photos that mean something to me, but i’d like to be able to use words to create a photo too. This is my first attempt at such a task.

In Leicester there is a boy
student
who walks around with his headphones on through the city centre
singing loudly to himself.
he can’t sing
he’s fucking awful
The odd smirk on his face says he
thinks he’s being “different” or “quirky” or “unique”
but he looks at the floor as he walks
in an awkward
uncomfortable
insecure
transparent
ignorance.
That’s not unique or
an undiscovered, tortured genius
that’s the same as everyone else is, when they’re drunk.
He is the sheep that thinks he’s special
heading for the same slaughterhouse
as the rest of us.


The morning of Bukowski

January 25, 2011


One of my photos from Paris.

A short and sweet blog today. I am waiting on an email back, in order to post a longer, more precise blog. So today, I thought i’d be a little bit spontaneous and post a poem by Charles Bukowski that I have come to absolutely love. I have sat this morning, reading hundreds of Bukowski poems. I think he may well become the inspiration for my next tattoo.

Here is one of my favourites. It is called “I like your books“:

In the betting line the other
day
man behind me asked,
“are you Henry
Chinaski?”

“uh huh,” I answered.

“I like your books,” he went
on.

“thanks,” I answered.

“who do you like in this
race?” he asked.

“uh uh,” I answered.

“I like the 4 horse,” he
told me.

I made my bet and went back
to my seat….

the next race I am standing in
line and here is this same man
standing behind me
again.
there are at least 50 lines at
the windows but
he has to find mine
again.

“I think this race favors the
closers,” he said to the back of
my neck. “the track looks
heavy.”

“listen,” I said, not looking
around, “it’s the kiss of death to
talk about horses at the
track…”

“what kind of rule is that?”
he asked. “God doesn’t make
rules…”

I turned around and looked at him:
“maybe not, but I
do.”

after the next race
I got in line, glanced behind
me:
he was not there:

lost another reader.

I lose 2 or 3 each
week.

fine.

let ’em go back to
Kafka.

Amazing.


The band

November 20, 2010

A couple of bands in the area that I live asked me to do a few sample photos for them at rehearsal. It is my first attempt at band photography. This is what I came up with:

This second lot of photos, is from a band called Soundtrack. They can be heard here.


Futilephotographer

August 24, 2010

Since being over here in Australia, I have rediscovered my interest in Photography. Ash is a fantastic person to encourage creativity. I can count on her honesty. It is encouraging. Before hand, I was given two extremes. Either people who would tell me I am an amazing photographer who should take on the World and become the greatest ever, whilst they lick my arse thoroughly for as long as possible before the muscles of the tongue cease up; or I had pretentious art types who were about as talented as a Big Brother contestant, and so dismissed the art work of anyone who didn’t appear to be ‘fashionably wacky’. Complete opposite, and completely extreme. There was never anyone who would critique me the way I wished. I know I can rely on my Aussie for a truthful opinion and tips.

I studied Photography for a year in London, during late 2008. I left the course early because the people who ran it had a very specific taste in art and would outright tell you you’re photos were utterly shit. The line between subjective opinion and objective truth became magically blurred, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like them telling me what makes a good shot. I didn’t like them telling me that Diane Arbus was the greatest Photographer of the 20th Century. I didn’t like being told that a subject that is wholly subjective, can be moulded into something objective. So I left. And with it, my passion for photography slipped away. I have very low self belief when it comes to my own creativity.

I have now decided to take up Photography again, for myself. Therefore, I have created a new blog located at: http://futilephotographer.wordpress.com on which I shall display my Photography work from now on. I really do wish to start selling some works too, given that I am but a poor student in need of as much of an income as possible. Comments on my work would be very much appreciated.

I hope you like the photos!


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Lomo: Another roll

August 9, 2010

Here is another selection of a roll of photography prints from my Diana Mini lomography camera, taken here in Aussie land.


Side

July 20, 2010

According to dictionary.com, the word ‘side’ means: “one of the surfaces forming the outside of or bounding a thing, or one of the lines bounding a geometric figure.” It does not say that ‘side’ should refer to one specific place. We English have taken this description very very seriously.

Side, is an English concept apparently. The Aussies have no idea what I’m talking about when I say something is on the side. They look at me, as if I’ve said “Oh hi, I was just wondering if I could tweak your nipples for a second or two?” Their minds cannot comprehend the complexity of ‘side‘. Side, to us Brits is like Narnia. We know it exists, because we have seen it. But no one else understands it.

Let me elaborate; when someone in the house asks a simple question such as “where are the keys?” and you know that the keys are on the bench next to the cooker, the answer is “they’re on the side“. If the very same person were to ask; “okay, I have the keys, where is my phone?” and you know that the phone is on top of the set of drawers in the bedroom on the right hand side of the bed, the answer would be “they’re in the bedroom, on the side“. If they are then looking for their hand held mirror, which Ashlee was looking for this morning, and you know it is in the bathroom on the bench next to the dryer, you would say “it’s in the bathroom on the side“.

Here is an example. I shall use Jesus and the virgin Mary as key characters in this, because they still seem to be quite popular.

Jesus: “Oi, shitface, where’s my phone? And you can’t punish me for calling you shitface, because i’m Jesus, i’ll turn your bathwater into the terrified screams of unbelievers.”
Mary: “It’s on the side, love.”
Jesus: “Magdelene keeps ringing, tellin’ me she’s all pregnant and that the kid is mine. Fuck that. Ima kick off in the temple today, fake my death to avoid paying child support, and become what i’ve always wanted to be; a gay atheist democrat. I’m sure no harm will come from it, and I’m almost certain that the idea that I’ve had a child will in no way spawn the writing of an incredibly shit novel followed by an even worse film rendition of it, followed even further by the same author raping the very concept of literature, and metaphorically pissing all over greats like Shakespeare and Milton, by writing even more atrocious novels. Thanks for my phone, it was on the side, your water is safe.”

See! Even Jesus knew what side was.

We Brits know exactly what side we are talking about, when we answer with “side“. If someone were to ask us “oh cool, you found the keys, where were they?” and you found the keys on the small table that the phone sits on, you would say “they were on the side“. Side is a generic answer, for when something is on the work bench, or on top of the bathroom cupboards, or the bedside table. However, side is NEVER to be used to describe a bed, a couch, a dining room table, a bookshelf, a child’s head, or the floor. That would just be ridiculous.

I have tried today to limit my use of ‘side’ when Ash asks where something is. This morning, as explained earlier, she asked where her mirror was. I answered, knowing that the use of ‘side’ was very much off limits, with: “It’s on the …….. bench……. with the clothe……… with the jumper thing….. next to the…….erm………. It’s on the side“. I couldn’t help it, side is just a far more simple way of explaining the location of a given object at any particular time.

So now we have cleared that up, here’s a pretty picture of mine for you to look at, in an attempt to make it seem like this was a worthwhile blog at all. It was taken in Melbourne at the weekend. I have uploaded a few more prints that are now for sale, at http://jme2007.deviantart.com/prints if you are interested. That’s right, my transformation into a dirty Capitalist is well underway. I will be lobbying Western governments to invade poorer Nations and create awesome photo opportunities at the expense of the local population, in no time.


Aussie days

July 11, 2010

I am closing in on the halfway point of my visit to Australia. So, I thought i’d make a huge blog, full of my favourite photos from the past few weeks. So here you go….













Lomography Film Roll: Five

June 8, 2010

My fifth roll from my Diana mini. A few photos from the weekend at the park with friends, and a few from around Leicester.

I have a bit of a love for random photos; snapshots of the mundane life in motion.


Spirit of the ’60s

June 5, 2010

Today it came out, that photography Brian Duffy has died. Duffy is a photographer known for his rather iconic portraits of, well, iconic celebrities during the 1960s and 1970s. His work, along with Bailey and Donovan, defined that era beautifully.

I picture him, in a studio, standing in his flared cords, shouting instructions at Bowie in front of the camera. The spirit of London in the ’60s. His celebrity photography along with his fashion photography, are what I think of, when imagining the 1960s.

In 1979, Duffy became sick of photography, and burnt all the negatives of his images. But the ones that remain, will always be remembered.

Here’s a few of his work over the years:


Sammy Davis Jnr, & May Britt


John Lennon


Westminster Bridge, 1961


Reggie Kray and Grandad


Harold Wilson


The ’60s fashion


David Bowie


Love, in the ’60s

Brian Duffy, 1933 – 2010


The Exhibition

May 15, 2010

My beautiful girlfriend, Ash, pictured here…

…. will be exhibiting some of her excellent photography work, for the first time, this July, in Australia. I will be there to see it, which makes me happy. She is a very talented artist and photographer, and it’s about time a larger number of people get to see her work.

I thought, given my growing level of pride in every thing she does recently, that I’d showcase some of her work on this blog, for the very few people who actually read it from time to time.

They are all lomography photos taken traditionally. None of them have been digitally enhanced.


Lomography Film Roll: Four

May 11, 2010

It would seem that within the next couple of hours, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will be going into coalition. Talks between the Liberals and Labour fell apart before they’d started. Gordon Brown looks set to resign tonight too.

So, with the news of a new Tory lead government, with a pathetic Liberal Democrat party that I will never vote for again, I thought I should post something a bit more cheery.

I got this roll of film developed today.