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American Photographers: Photographic Contributions to the American Narrative from The Civil War to The Vietnam War

American Photographers: Photographic Contributions to the American Narrative from The Civil War to The Vietnam War

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Published by Deborah
A final report for American Art History
A final report for American Art History

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Published by: Deborah on Dec 09, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Deborah MauldinCara SimulevitzAmerican Art HistoryFebruary 5, 2009American Photographers: Photographic Contributions to the American Narrative fromThe Civil War to The Vietnam WarIn terms of the world timeline, the United States of America is a relatively youngcountry. The same parallel exists for photography in the world of art and documentation.Despite their relative youth, the country and the medium have advanced so much soquickly that they both have become dominating elements in global life. Through thedocumentation of people, places and events American photographers and the imagesthey created have played an assistive role in the development of the United States as anation that governs itself. These photographers, through their work, have also served tobring a wider awareness of issues to the American public and as such have contributedto the national discourse that continuously works to shape American ideals and definewhat it means to be American.Cameras have become ubiquitous in the United States. People are everywhere tak-ing pictures of anything that reflects light. Portraits are as common as the printed word,whether they are taken by a professional in a studio or they are taken of oneself at armslength. The very first portrait taken in the United States happens to be a self-portrait,made by Robert Cornelius, a lamp maker who caught the photography bug as soon asLouise Jacques Mande
s English publication of
An Historical Account and a 
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Descriptive Account of the Various Processes of the Daguerreotype and the Diorama 
 landed in America (American Philosophical Society).
Fig 1. Robert Cornelius, Self Portrait, 1839 (Library of Congress).
With the success of that first self-portrait, as well as other early attempts by Corne-lius
s contemporaries, American had officially entered into an era of photographicdocumentation.Marching onwards through American history, it is the Civil War that divides the nationand astonishes the populace out of any romantic reverie of what it is to fight in a war.
Fig 2. The Devil 
s Den, Matthew B. Brady (Library of Congress)
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Matthew Brady was one instrument that dealt the astonishment with his “cumber-some darkrooms” and assistants that followed the Union army to document scenes ofbattle (Lane). This was truly America
s first widespread and intimate view of the imme-diate cost of war. “Oliver Wendell Holmes, in seeing Brady's photos of justa few of the5,000 killed and 18,000 wounded in a single day of fighting, commented he had theurge to bury the photos along with the dead” (Lane). These photographs elicited strongemotional reactions which clearly mark the beginning of how photographs entered intoand affected the national consciousness.After the Civil War, the government
s efforts at westward expansion led to discover-ies of great natural spaces that have been preserved as national parks and monuments.Photography played no small role in these preservations.
Fig 3. Old Faithful, William Henry Jackson, 1870 (Getty Museum).
As Matthew B. Brady is synonymous with Civil War photography, so William HenryJackson is synonymous with the images that made America and rest of the world awareof the great American West. His photographs taken during the government geologicalResearch Paper
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