|Monday, 17 September 2012 15:54|
Born: October 17, 1821 Paisley, Scotland
Died: December 10, 1882 Washington.
Notable because: One of the founders of photojournalism. Documented the American Civil War captured many historical images. Was the official photographer for the Union Armies.
Alexander Gardner was a Scottish photographer who moved to the United States in 1856, where he began to work full-time in that profession. He is best known for his photographs of the American Civil War, American President Abraham Lincoln, and the execution of the conspirators to Lincoln's assassination.
Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1821. He became an apprentice silversmith jeweler at the age of sixteen. Gardner had a Calvinist upbringing and was influenced by the work of Robert Owen, Welsh socialist and father of the cooperative movement. By adulthood he desired to create a cooperative in the United States that would incorporate socialist values. In 1850, Gardner and others purchased land near Monona, Iowa, for this purpose, but Gardner never lived there, choosing to return to Scotland to raise more money. He stayed there until 1856, becoming owner and editor of the Glasgow Sentinel in 1851. Visiting The Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park, London, he saw the photography of American Mathew Brady, and thus began his interest in the subject.
Gardner and his family moved to the United States in 1856. Finding that many friends and family members at the cooperative he had helped to form were dead or dying of tuberculosis, he stayed in New York. He initiated contact with Brady and came to work for him that year, continuing until 1862. At first, Gardner specialized in making large photographic prints, called Imperial photographs, but as Brady’s eyesight began to fail, Gardner took on more and more responsibilities. In 1858, Brady put him in charge of the Brady's Washington, D.C. gallery.
Abraham Lincoln became the American President in the November 1860 election and along with his election came the threat of war. Gardner, being in Washington, was well-positioned for these events, and his popularity rose as a portrait photographer, capturing the visages of soldiers leaving for war.
Brady had had the idea to photograph the Civil War. Gardner's relationship with Allan Pinkerton (who was head of an intelligence operation that would become the Secret Service) was the key to communicating Brady's ideas to Lincoln. Pinkerton recommended Gardner for the position of chief photographer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Topographical Engineers. Following that short appointment, Gardner became a staff photographer under General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac. At this point, Gardner's management of Brady's gallery ended. The honorary rank of captain was bestowed upon Gardner, and he photographed the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, developing photos in his travelling darkroom.
Gardner has often had his work misattributed to Brady, and despite his considerable output, historians have tended to give Gardner less than full recognition for his documentation of the Civil War. Lincoln dismissed McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, and Gardner’s role as chief army photographer diminished. About this time, Gardner ended his working relationship with Brady, probably in part because of Brady's practice of attributing his employees' work as "Photographed by Brady". That winter, Gardner followed General Ambrose Burnside, photographing the Battle of Fredericksburg. Next, he followed General Joseph Hooker. In May 1863, Gardner and his brother James opened their own studio in Washington, D.C, hiring many of Brady's former staff. Gardner photographed the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863) and the Siege of Petersburg (June 1864–April 1865) during this time.
In 1866, Gardner published a two-volume work, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. Each volume contained 50 hand-mounted original prints. Not all photographs were Gardner's; he credited the negative producer and the positive print printer. As the employer, Gardner owned the work produced, as with any modern-day studio. The sketchbook contained work by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, James F. Gibson, John Reekie, William Pywell, James Gardner (his brother), John Wood, George N. Barnard, David Knox and David Woodbury, among others. Among his photographs of Abraham Lincoln were some considered to be the last to be taken of the President, four days before his assassination, although later this claim was found to be incorrect, while the pictures were actually taken in February 1865. He also documented Lincoln's funeral, and photographed the conspirators involved (with John Wilkes Booth) in Lincoln's assassination. Gardner was the only photographer allowed at their execution by hanging, photographs of which would later be translated into woodcuts for publication in Harper's Weekly.
After the war, Gardner was commissioned to photograph Native Americans who came to Washington to discuss treaties; and he surveyed the proposed route of the Kansas Pacific railroad to the Pacific Ocean. Many of his photos were stereoscopic. After 1871, Gardner gave up photography and helped to found an insurance company. Gardner stayed in Washington until his death. When asked about his work, he said, "It is designed to speak for itself. As mementos of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that it will possess an enduring interest."
In 1893, photographer J. Watson Porter, who had worked for Gardner years before, tracked down hundreds of glass negatives made by Gardner, that had been left in an old house in Washington where Gardner had lived. The result was a story in the Washington Post and renewed interest in Gardner's photographs.
A century later, photographic analysis suggested that Gardner had manipulated the setting of at least one of his Civil War photos by moving a soldier's corpse and weapon into more dramatic positions. In 1961, Frederic Ray of the Civil War Times magazine compared several of Gardner's Gettysburg photos showing "two" dead Confederate snipers and realized that the same body has been photographed in two separate locations. One of his most famous images, "Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter", has been argued to be a fabrication. This argument, first put forth by William Frassanito in 1975, goes this way: Gardner and his assistants Timothy O'Sullivan and James Gibson had dragged the sniper's body 40 yards into the more photogenic surroundings of the Devil's Den to create a better composition. Though Ray's analysis was that the same body was used in two photographs, Frassanito expanded on this analysis in his 1975 book Gettysburg: A Journey in Time, and acknowledged that the manipulation of photographic settings in the early years of photography was not frowned upon. In 1998 artist James C. Groves produced another analysis which has brought the debate of the "Case of the Moved Body" full circle. Mr. Groves' analysis of the photographic evidence contained in the two photographs and another stereo image contradicts Frassanito's analysis.
Manufacturer: Dover Publications
Amazon Price: $17.95
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Second only to Mathew Brady as the foremost early American photographer was Alexander Gardner, the one-time manager of Brady's Washington salon and Brady's chief photographer in the field during the early days of the Civil War.
Manufacturer: Kashi House
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Editorial Review: Like the travels of Marco Polo, those of Alexander Gardner clip the white line between credible adventure and creative invention. Either he is the nineteenth century’s most intrepid traveler or its most egregious fantasist, or a bit of both. Contemporaries generally believed him; posterity became more skeptical. And as with Polo, the investigation of Gardner’s story enlarged man’s understanding of the world and upped the pace of scientific and political exploration.
Before more reputable explorers notched up their own discoveries in innermost Asia, this lone Scots-American had roamed the deserts of Turkestan, ridden round the world’s most fearsome knot of mountains and fought in Afghanistan ‘for the good cause of right against wrong’. From the Caspian to Tibet and from Kandahar to Kashgar, Gardner had seen it all. At the time, the 1820s, no other outsider had managed anything remotely comparable. When word of his feats filtered out, geographers were agog.
Historians were more intrigued by what followed. After thirteen years as a white-man-gone-native in Central Asia, Gardner reemerged as a colonel of artillery in the employ of India’s last great native empire. He witnessed the death throes of that Sikh empire at close quarters and, sparing no gruesome detail, recorded his own part in the bloodshed (the very same featuring as the exploits of ‘Alick’ Gardner in the ‘Flashman’ series).
Fame finally caught up with him during his long retirement in Kashmir. Dressed in tartan yet still living as a native, he mystified visiting dignitaries and found a ready audience for the tales of his adventurous past. But one mystery he certainly took to the grave: the whereabouts of his accumulated fortune has still to be discovered.
Using much original material, including newly discovered papers by Gardner himself, this investigative biography by renowned historian John Keay takes the reader on a quest from the American West to the Asian East to unravel the greatest enigma in the history of travel.
Shooting Lincoln: Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and the Race to Photograph the Story of the Century
Manufacturer: Da Capo Press
Amazon Price: $28.00
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Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner were the new media moguls of their day. Together they brought the Civil War and all of its terrible suffering into Northern living rooms. Newspapers sold out when they ran their photos, and, by the end of the war, they were locked in fierce competition. When the biggest story of the century-Lincoln's assassination-broke, their paparazzi-like race intensified. Whoever could take the most sensational-or ghastly-photo would achieve lasting fame.
Shooting Lincoln tells the astonishing behind-the-photograph story of these two media pioneers who raced to "shoot" Lincoln in the days after he died and the assassins on the day they died. The photos they took electrified the country, unlocking the passion of Americans for close-up views of history as it happened.
Manufacturer: Nelson Atkins
Amazon Price: $60.00
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A glimpse into the development of the American West through startling photographs of the frontier landscape and the rich culture of American Indian tribes
Best known for his Civil War photographs, Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) also created two extraordinary bodies of work depicting the transformation of the American West: Across the Continent on the Kansas Pacific Railway and Scenes in the Indian County. In 1867, after joining the survey team for what became the Kansas Pacific Railroad, Gardner photographed the path of the proposed extension, emphasizing the ease of future railroad construction and economic development, while including studies of American Indians and settlements along the way. The following year, Gardner recorded peace talks with Indian tribes at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Distinctly sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian, Gardner made candid documentation of individual chiefs, their encampments and daily life, burial trees, and the peace proceedings themselves. With a full catalogue raisonné of these two rare series, Alexander Gardner offers a complete visual index of these remarkable photographs, made at a critical moment in the history of the American West.
Manufacturer: Penguin Audio
Amazon Price: $24.99
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A New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!
From the Trade Paperback edition.
|Last Updated on Monday, 17 September 2012 16:02|