August 2009

Image:  Bryan Hiott & Alexander Gardner

Image: Bryan Hiott & Alexander Gardner

Above:  My Dundee, NY landscape (August 2009) combined in Photoshop with an Alexander Gardner image of a dead Federal soldier at the McPherson farm in Gettysburg, PA (July 1863).  Whole plate image on aluminum.

Image manipulation has been with us from the beginning of  photography – whether staging photos or enhancing them in the darkroom or (as we do now) in Photoshop. Alexander Gardner himself staged a shot at Gettysburg, moving a dead Confederate soldier about 40 yards to make his famous Rebel Sharpshooter image in the Devil’s Den. He even arranged the rifle and cartridge box.  Moving a soldier he photographed through time and pixels to 2009 was something of the same staging.

In my Civil War Smash Up, I was following an instinct I’ve had with wet plate to weave in and out of historical period and create a sense of displacement. Combining an actual Gardner image from Gettysburg with one of my landscape tintypes was one step in that direction. I think we’ve become so accustomed to seeing carnage in Civil War images that the tragedy doesn’t register. Transposing a dead Federal soldier to a modern scene asks questions about the sacrifices of that war and what our culture has become.



Portrait of Debbie Rice.  Whole plate alumitype by Bryan Hiott.  I made this image last weekend during John Coffer’s Jamboree, an annual gathering of wet plate photographers from around the United States.  Actual size of the plate is 6.5 x 8.5 inches.  Exposure time was five seconds with an f8 Dallmeyer Rapid Rectilinear lens.

OBill Steber

Bill Steber

At John Coffer’s 2009 Jamboree,  wet plate photographer and blues musician Bill Steber performed “Old Collodion Blues” around the campfire.

Click on the link for mp3:  Old Collodion Blues