Mathew Brady: America’s First Photojournalist

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Mathew Brady opened his first photographic office in 1844.  To his studios in New York and Washington, D. C., flocked politicians, generals, actors, and actresses.  Anyone who was anyone sat to “have their likeness taken” by Brady and his assistants, several of whom, including Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner, were destined for fame in their own right.

Among Brady’s subjects were 18 American presidents.  His photos of Abraham Lincoln have been used for Lincoln’s portrait on the penny and the five dollar bill.

When the Civil War began, Brady was determined to take its picture.  He and his staff hauled their bulky cameras and equipment from camp to camp and from battlefield to battlefield.  10,000 Brady photographic plates brought to the untouched cities of the North the realities of war, the wounded in the hospital tents and the torn and bloated bodies in the field.  They constitute a major source for study today.

In this program we’ll take a biographical look at Brady and the people who sat for his pictures.  We’ll follow Brady’s cameras and wagons around the Civil War, and rummage through pictures of his studio to discover the props and photographic techniques that helped make him famous.  A fascinating look at the world of 19th century America and its most famous photographer!

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