“Federal Dead on the Field of Battle of First Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania” Mathew Brady, 1863

118045026.KQyvFIUO.3.FederalD_dy1863One of the world’s earliest war photographers, Mathew Brady really actually began as a daguerreotypist and a straitjacket photographer who captured pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Robert E Lee in the confines of their office setting. War time trench hopping hadn’t yet begun, until much later. His transition into the world of conflict photography was a huge risk he took: losing everything from his money and business to his personal life. He gave them all up willingly, as he marched alongside the Union Army as it went to war, with his camera in hand. The story goes that he said, “A spirit in my feet said GO!”, before making his trip.He narrowly escaped being captured during the first Battle of Bull Run. That set Brady back a little, making him a little more worried about his safety. During the span of the few years of the civil war and its multiple battles, Matthew Brady and his team shot over as many as 7,000 photographs. This is an especially rare distinction that was ahead of its times, given that a single plate of photographs that needed development needed a horse drawn carriage filled with equipment and chemicals. One of his greatest shots is the picture of the Federal Dead on the Field of Battle of First Day, shot in Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.The picture was shot at the height of the Civil War in 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, in Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War locked horns at this historic spot, and the resultant battle claimed the largest number of casualties during the entire war, and has since been reckoned as the war’s turning point. Brady’s photograph of the dead on battlefield reflected on a lot of elements: the superficiality of conflict at the higher level in sharp contrast with its harsh impacts on ground level, the stark reality of conflict and its lasting consequences, and most importantly, the sheer necessity to document a chapter in history that the world would otherwise not know of.This picture by Brady is a reflection of his core philosophy as a war photo journalist. It was a remarkable preservation of the grim realities of the battlefield and the fleeting thing that life is.

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