The 19th Century of a Selfie, What a Setup

You know what they called him? They called him the father of photojournalism.

You know who played favorites with him? Lincoln.

Guess who was a cool photographer who beat all the other photographers in the 19th century in capturing a historical event?

You probably didn’t guess it, Mathew B. Brady.

Well anyway, here’s his story.

January 6th 1861 –  It is whispered all over town, a war is upon us! Going down to the city tomorrow night. New York owes me some gossip. Maybe I’ll start using that daguerreotype I got a while ago. Got to put it to use sometime in the future. It’s seen way too much fame, to never get some of its own.

January 10th – Well, my worries have been confirmed. The South is feeding on succession one state after another.  Any good news? I’m putting my studio into function and making it a developing place for my prints.

February 12th– I’m getting a team together:; my plan is on. 20 people. I’m going to photograph all of this war.

My first project came out impeccably. I got portraits of some important people… Daniel Webster… Poe…James Fenimore Cooper and others.

I was talking to one of my new hired workers, Alexander Gardner. Got quite a personality and attitude, marched right in here like this place was to him as he was to it. Couldn’t deny him thought, momentary, his charisma convinced me. Plus, he’s talented. Maybe a little bit too talented…

June 28th– Finally got my hands on some time to sneak in a break. Haven’t written in here in a while. To catch up, our team has been moving around trying to catch the next big thing. I got a portrait of the new president, Lincoln. I showed him some of my completed work so far. He was surprisingly interested, and asked to see me sometime soon. Encouraged to keep shooting, told me not to worry with money, government would be craving the photos after the war.

July 22nd– Safely get to sight of battle. Boom, boom! Mistaken us for soldiers. Apologies. Bad eyesight on their hands. Oh, it’s okay, our lives were not at stake. Guess we’ll have to come back.

-Battle of Bull Run

March 28th 1862  (looking back) Finally we got this Battle of the Bull Run. Some leftover human remains lie. Not enough. Had to hire models, remade the scene from July. Invested this time as much as up till now. Getting darn expensive. Went to the bank. On credit. Government ought to pay me back after war is finished. No one else is doing what I’m doing. Talking about that, Gardner is questioning me about what credits he gets for the photos. Pitching in an opinion in the change of scenery and pressing a button has no need for credit.  My cousin’s slave could have done it.

July 1862- Send a few workers to photograph the site. Getting pretty tired of traveling. Homesickness, homesickness.

February 17th– A few workers left a while ago. Gardner threatens me of leaving the team. Ruins one of “his” pieces in anger. I did not and could not give it much thought or little effort to fret about. I had plenty of copies at the studio. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. He left this afternoon. Out of my spotlight, he thinks he’s going to get anyone interested in him? He couldn’t run out his freedom on this one. Has it come to his thought that I don’t give him any credit to keep him at a high level with his quality work?

Good relations? I’ll speak of some good relations. The northern press used a couple of my photo. Called it a big hit. Guess who made the front page? Me! Well, my photo.

November 5th-Fallen into a pretty good routine. Got back my travelling sense.

April 30th 1865- Lost my diary for quite a while. Turns out I left it in New York, at home. Getting out of routine is unpleasant. I feel a sick stomach, I don’t see what the next big thing can be. Still waiting for those payments from the government. I owe a couple hundred thousands. Court case in a few months.

Counted the prints. Somewhere around four thousand. Few men left on the team. They stay for the money, which is soon to stop making its way to them. Low dignity, true? Haven’t been on the shooting sessions 80% of the time. Their work, my profit, my credit. So easy to work with these kinds of people.

Mathew B. Brady lived like many other artists. Our facts point out that he possibly took credit for the work of his workers. Wait, is he pulling a Shakespeare? No, I don’t like to believe Shakespeare stole what he is credited with. But here is what Brady is pulling, the typical penniless artist tragic ending. He died with much in debt when he invested in his documentation of the Civil War. Alone, in a hospital, maybe he was worse off then most artists.



4 thoughts on “The 19th Century of a Selfie, What a Setup

  1. This was a really cool idea to focus on the beginnings of photo journalism rather than just the civil war. It was also interesting to see how unsuccessful it was at the time.

  2. I really like how you focused more on the beginning of photo journalism, instead of just focusing on the war and the outcomes of the war. I honestly had no idea about photo journalism before I read this post, so thank you.

  3. This is pretty nice. I never gave a thought about the life of photographers and even less about any role they might have played in history. Well of course now that I think of it, they are the ones responsible for recording history, so I believe this blog post may send the distinct message to also remember those that record history not just those that make it, because if it wasn’t for them, then we wouldn’t learn from our past in the first place.

  4. I thought this was so interesting. I especially love the point of view of the piece and how it shows the personal experience of one person yet tells about photojournalism as a whole, too.

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