This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast spotlights "Photography and the American Civil War" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opening on Tuesday, April 2, the exhibition surveys photography of and related to the conflict, including battlefield daguerreotypes, post-battle scenes and intense pictures of the dead and wounded. The program’s lead guest is Jeff Rosenheim, the curator of the exhibition and the author of the excellent book that accompanies it. The exhibition will be on view through September 2.
Rosenheim is the curator in charge of the Met’s photography department. His primary focus is American photography: He facilitated the Met’s acquisitions of the complete archives of photographers Walker Evans in 1994 and Diane Arbus in 2007.
This picture: As it turned out, the Civil War was a spectacular mechanism for spreading the still relatively new medium of photography. Soldiers lined up to have their photographs taken in their uniforms so that their parents back home would have something to remember them by (especially in case…). This is an example of the type, a picture of a Union private in the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry (the Ellsworth Zouaves) that took Alexandria, Va. in the first days of the war and that later fought in the first battle at Bull Run, where it suffered extensive casualties. It’s a fine example of a portrait taken early in the war, before soldiers had been exposed to battle. We’ll see one of the later portraits this afternoon. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Image: Unknown Artist, Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves), May-June 1861. 1/6 plate ambrotype.