Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Photography and the American Civil War

I saw this exhibition today at the Met, and I found it to be a little too lttle for my tastes. The show is made up of 200 photographic images, most of them small and intimate that  were really hard for me to focus in on. Maybe I need better glasses. The lighting is dark and gloomy as befitting this kind of an exhibition and the look of it was  over designed. The walls of some of the galleries are covered in canvas to simulate the look and feel of the kind of tents that were used to house the troops, too cute and clever for words.  There are lots of  small wallet sized portraits, tintypes and  daguerreotypes that are presented in upright positions in glass cases, the better to make them look and feel like paper dolls ready to salute us. To be sure there are many touching and sad images included, and I was surprised by the minimal use of photographs of the dead on the battlefields. However the show makes up for this by presenting some really ghastly photographs that a doctor documented of the horribly wounded soldiers  that made me gasp out loud. A sign warning of these images should be posted to let mothers and fathers with small children know what they are about to see.  Many of the photographs are familiar to me, having seen them reproduced over and over again in books and in Ken Burns magnificent series “The Civil War” which gave me a more powerful and visceral experience of this dreadful war than this exhibition did. And no I did not take in the Punk show, instead as I usually do at the Met I just wandered around and found myself in the magnificent African wing, The Gallery for the Art of Native North America and the Oceanic Art collection which is housed in what has one of the most spectacular spaces in this or any other museum. And finally I saw the small but beautiful Paul Klee show-Path To Abstraction which I loved. I took lots of photographs but the ones posted here are from the Met's website.


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