Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1861 Confederate Greys, Mathew Brady

1861 Confederate Greys, Mathew Brady, 1861, photograph

This is a photo credited to Mathew Brady, although as you mentioned in class, it could very easily have been taken by one of his assistants.  It took me a while to find this picture, but I chose it because it is North Carolina Confederate soldiers leaving off to battle.  Mathew Brady was a very controversial photographer, as are many, but he was so because he would rearrange dead bodies, coming into battlefields days after the action had ended and moved on.  While he also did many scenes of battlefields, he also was noted for his portraits. However, that wasn't always the case.  In the first major battle of the Civil War, Manassas, where I must add that the Confederacy slaughtered the over confident Union, but I digress.  In this battle, which took place in Virginia, outside of Manassas (which I also must add is a very beautiful setting, irony abounds!) Mathew Brady almost got captured by Confederate forces.  Throughout the entire Civil War Brady took over 10,000 plates, almost certain the U.S. government would buy them from him at the end of the war, and yet they did not, leaving him a financial wreck, only to die 30 years later, still penniless.  Brady tested photographic ethics, and helped shape what they are today.

What stands out to me about this picture, is the solemn facial expressions.  They were very serious and were very much aware of what they were doing by joining the cause.  The blurriness surrounding the central focus of the soldiers gives the photo a sense of confusion and franticness (word?).  The mix then of the calmness in their faces with the feeling of confusion gives the photo a surreal aura.  There's this confusion and disorganization in  that a country was formed so quickly and they are going to war immediately after declaring secession and independence, yet when you break it down and analyze each person individually, there's the sense that each one of them is individually calm and collected, certain that they want to follow through with what they are doing.  It was for these soldiers that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are called the Tar Heels, because the North Carolina Confederate soldiers would never back down and would stand their ground until they could fight no more, so determined to win that it was as if their feet were grounded in tar.

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