Friday, November 16, 2007

On Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War

by Anthony W. Lee

From the publisher:
Soon after Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book was published, in 1866, it became the Civil War's best-known visual record and helped define how viewers, then and in subsequent generations, would come to know the war.

Gardner's classic also became foundational in the history of American photography, combining, for the first time, words and images in a sophisticated and moving account. This book, written by the art historian Anthony W. Lee and the literary scholar Elizabeth Young, interprets the story of the war as told by Gardner, unraveling his careful choice of words and images and the complicated play between them, and understanding them against the backdrop of the literary and photographic cultures of the American antebellum and Reconstruction eras.

This book presents a unique study of a pivotal American historical document, approaching it from the perspective of visual studies as well as American literature and history.

"Lee and Young have admirably elucidated this foundational volume in the history of American photography by developing references that emerge from prior readings of these images, as well as thoughtfully producing new ways of seeing the landscapes Gardner presents. The book makes available to a wide audience one of the most important photographic records of any war and certainly the most interesting visual record of the American Civil War. This is superior scholarship."--Shirley Samuels, author of Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War