To What Extent Did Realism in Photography Impact the Public Opinion of the Civil War

To What Extent Did Realism in Photography Impact the Public Opinion of the Civil War

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This investigation explores to what extent did realism presented by photography impact the public opinion of the Civil War? The Civil War was the pioneer war in terms of actively using photography as a means of recording. The investigation focuses on photography’s role in capturing the war at face value. Photos of major battles and scenes that exposed citizens to the reality of war will be analyzed, as well as how their opinions changed because of it. The motivations behind why photos were taken will be explored, such as propaganda, as well as reactions to them. Research into events being photographed, their intentions and who requested them will be made, also assessing its effect on the public determining successfulness.
Battle field photography was not developed for the sole purpose of recording events as would a newspaper or painting. Battle field photography brought intense images directly from the field to the public, bringing the horrors of war to families so far from their husbands and sons (Niiler). The photography institution brought the reality of war to the public in manners newspapers were incapable of (Harvey 73). Photography had been around prior to the war but commercialization was a new concept thirsty for a new conflict (Niiler). At the start of the Civil War, these photographers took photos of camp life, in field action as well as the aftermath (Harvey 73). There were a few major photographers were making war a reality. One was Mathew Brady, who gave the initial exposure to dead soldiers to the public (Harvey 76). Oliver Holmes commented on a selection of war photos stating, “...all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid ...

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Brady, Mathew B., and Barry Pritzer. Mathew Brady. New York: Crescent, 1992. Print.
Gardner, Alexander. Bloody Lane, Confederate Dead, Antietam. 1862. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Harvey, Eleanor Jones. The Civil War and American Art. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum in Association with Yale UP, 2012. Print.
Horan, James David. Mathew Brady: Historian with a Camera. New York: Bonanza , a Division of Crown, 1955. Print.
Meredith, Roy. Mr. Lincoln's Camera Man Mathew B. Brady. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1946. Print.
Niiler, Eric. "How Civil War Photography Changed War." Discovery Channel, 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. Print.
Sweet, Timothy. Traces of War: Poetry, Photography, and the Crisis of the Union. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1990. Print.

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