29 August 2007

Photodude Debunks Civil War Photog Mathew Brady

Atlanta-based blogger Photodude takes Andrew Sullivan to task by debunking Mathew Brady's role as the photographer of the American Civil War. I've seen many, many Mathew Brady photographs, but never heard this angle. Did the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War mention this?
As someone intimately familiar with both the history of photography and the Civil War, I can tell you that Matthew Brady was well known as a sour self-promoting character with far more ego than talent. Yes, he did take some famous photos during the Civil War, but he also took the work of talented photographers like Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and others, and proudly presented it as his own. The quote I recall is along the lines of “that photo is so good I’m going to tell the world it’s a Matthew Brady photograph.” He was brazen about it. You might say Matthew Brady invented the concept of “work for hire.”
UPDATE: I've corrected the spelling of Brady's first name except where quoting Photodude. As a commenter on my WordPress mirror blog notes, Photodude's animus toward Brady seems excessive. More on Brady here and here.

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