The “Shooter” On The Front Lines

The evolution of documentary and photojournalism photography as soon as technology was able became embedded in wartime documentation.

The first known war (at least that I understand) using the beginnings of the camera and developing process all started right here in the US. And proceeding that technique, was the professional artist sketch. So which war introduced the concept of photojournalism setting precedent for the extremely daring art of battle/war time picture taking?

If you answered “The Civil War” you answered right.

I thought it would be interesting to point out the earlier art of this photography, as much as the idea of the dramatic and emotional brings the war to light though very heartbreakingly. For the time the technology of the camera was as exciting and novel as the technology we know more 100 years later. There is no disputing that the simple artist sketch had it’s place in wartime documentation. But, the Wet Plate camera process ushered in the idea of realism in a real life look at the essence of war, battle and the gruesome. The practice of shooting battlescenes on the frontlines though might have taken weeks or months to reach the population via print media, was no less unsettling than the excesses and speed of publishing via satellite and the world- wide- web .

Professional "field studio" of "The War Between The States

The application of much equipment and accessories though cumbersome, were simply just part of the job. As today,  in modern field and studio photography; equipment can be just as vast, involved and expensive.  Though technology might reduce the “size” of things. In the digital the computer is the darkroom. Editing software is “the chemical process.” Lighting sets can be huge. And there is the electricity to run it all!
The image to the right  is the WET PLATE  CAMERA, exposing for the colloidial process in developing.
Printing was also prepared on heavy papers and metals. The “Carte de Visite” is the French term for announcing in a photo a person. What we know as a business card (some also use photos) this “visite” had the same function. 

"Union Officer's "Carte de Visite."

In the field of photojournalism there is no denying the endangering lifestyle of the war photographer. Though today any one soldier can be a photographer with their  easy access cell phone. The practice of the professional traveling with battalions or regiments has a long history and in the war between Union and Confederate soldiers, these “shooters” would end up as dead as a soldier or sailor. Though in light of the face of death, the photojournalism of WAR brings it all home in a manner of minutes, hours, days. Only we can imagine being there.

Soldiers at encampment

I would like to add, in my opinion, that for the early years “social documentary” shooting and war time photography, I would say the work of the photographer/ artist was sophisticated, honest storytelling.
By JuneRose JR Futcher

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Filed under photojournalism, social commentary

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