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Book Review: New York Civil War history highlights journalism scoundrels, heroes

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By R.E. Graswich
September 16, 2016

By R.E. Graswich

Two days after the Civil War battle of Antietam, as the bodies of more than 23,000 men lay rotting in the late September sun, a photographer named Alexander Gardner arrived at the Maryland battleground to make photojournalistic history.

Gardner and an assistant worked among the dead for four days, making 70 photographs on glass plates to document the carnage. They transported the plates to New York, where Gardner's partner, Matthew Brady, created albumen prints. Several weeks later, Brady opened a photographic exhibition called "The Dead of Antietam" at his studio on Broadway.

With an eye for financial opportunity that surpassed Gardner's photo-journalistic genius, Brady created a new art form. He sold the horrific images in various formats, from postcards to large prints bound in leather. For the first time in history, he brought the explicit human devastation of war home to the public.

Brady shared no credit with Gardner -- the photographer's name was absent from Brady's prints and displays -- but the exhibition established the power and authority of battlefield photography and photojournalism.

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Two days after the Civil War battle of Antietam, as the bodies of more than 23,000 men lay rotting in the late September sun, a photographer named Alexander Gardner arrived at the Maryland battleground to make photojournalistic history.

Gardner and an assistant worked among the dead for four days, making 70 photographs on glass plates to document the carnage. They transported the plates to New York, where Gardner's partner, Matthew Brady, created albumen prints. Several weeks later, Brady opened a photographic exhibition called "The Dead of Antietam" at his studio on Broadway.

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