Sally Mann - Battlefields: Antietam & Last Measure

The earth and its relationship to mortality are Sally Mann’s terrain in this series on the battlefields of the Civil War. It is a subject far removed from the lyrical landscapes of the American South and the intimate glimpses of family life that she has dealt with in previous photographic essays.

Nearly 150 years after Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner recorded the war ”live,” Ms. Mann has visited the various fields — Antietam, Manassas, Wilderness, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, etc. — to capture their spirit and perhaps invoke the needless destruction of all wars, present-day included.

Her manipulation of her predecessors’ cumbersome baggage — the wet-plate glass negative that had to be developed immediately — has produced a group of retro-looking, painterly photographs whose minimal but elegiac imagery has the charge of somber poetry. As with the old, technically crude process, the prints are scratched, blurred, often hazy and streaked and spotted with points of light; some are deliberately given semi-arches at the top corners to create the look of an old album.

Grace Glueck

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