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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Alexander Gardner

Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War holds a distinguished place in history: it is one of the most important books published in American history, one of the most significant works of photojournalism, and one of the most moving sequences of images one might ever experience.
Recent scholarship has placed Alexander Gardner at the forefront of the creative production in Mathew Brady’s photography studio. Walt Whitman was an admirer of his work and wrote, “Gardner was a real artist—had the feel of his work—the inner feel, if I may say so…he was also beyond his craft—saw farther than his camera—saw more; his pictures are an evidence of his endowment.”
Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook was conceived as an extended essay incorporating images and text into one fluid narrative. It is by no means a comprehensive history, nor is it meant to be. Historian Will Stapp described these volumes as “offering a selective, impressionistic evocation of [the Civil War]. The work has blatantly affective content, and it is carefully organized to orchestrate specific emotional response.”
The book’s coverage is restricted geographically to the theater of operations of the Army of the Potomac—from Gettysburg in the North to Richmond in the South; from the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the banks of the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers.