Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mathew B. Brady

Mathew B. Brady was one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and the documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism.

Brady was born in Warren County, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, Andrew and Julia Brady. He moved to New York City at the age of 16. Beginning in 1841, Brady's artistic aptitude allowed him to study under the skilled daguerreotypist Samuel F.B. Morse. By 1844, he had his own photography studio in New York City.

Brady's efforts to document the Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned Brady his place in history. Despite the obvious dangers, financial risk, and discouragement of his friends, Brady is later quoted as saying "I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'Go,' and I went." His first popular photographs of the conflict were at the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he got so close to the action that he only just avoided being captured.

In October 1862, Brady presented an exhibition of photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery entitled, "The Dead of Antietam." Many of the images in this presentation were graphic photographs of corpses, a presentation totally new to America. This was the first time that many Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous "artists' impressions".

Following the conflict, a war-weary public lost interest in seeing photos of the war, and Brady’s popularity and practice declined drastically.

Mathew Brady died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, at five o'clock, on January 15, 1896, from complications following a streetcar accident.

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