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.