Monday, August 6, 2012

Civil War era portraits

The art of portrait photography was well established by the mid-19th century. The people in these portraits seem stiff and unsmiling to modern eyes; this is partly due to the style of the time (public display of emotion was "unseemly") and photographic technology (people had to hold the pose for a long time while the photographic plate was exposed, and it's easier to hold an unsmiling pose than a smiling one). Regardless, there is something very poignant about these faces from a previous century - particularly the ones of Civil War soldiers and their families, likely taken before the men headed off to the war. Once the men left, they were gone into an unknown fate - no Skyping with the family on off-duty shifts for them!

These photos have been heavily edited.

 Unidentified African American woman

 Unidentified girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father

 Unidentified soldier and woman

 Unidentified soldier in Union first lieutenant's uniform next to unidentified woman

 Unidentified soldier in Union frock coat holding Company G, 12th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment forage cap next to unidentified woman
[although I said public display of emotion might have been considered unseemly then, I never
said it didn't happen - this woman is obviously terrified at the prospect of losing her man]
 Unidentified soldier in Union sergeant's uniform holding kepi with unidentified woman

Unidentified soldier in Union sergeant's uniform next to unidentified woman

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