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Image of Bird's Eye View of Bull Run Bridge

Andrew J. Russell , (Mar 20, 1829–Sep 22, 1902)

Bird's Eye View of Bull Run Bridge

1863
9 1/16 in. x 13 3/8 in. (23.02 cm x 33.97 cm)

Medium and Support: Albumen print
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Accession Number: 1991.145

Commentary

Captain A. J. Russell was assigned to the United States Military Railroad Construction Corps under General Herman Haupt, in March 1863, as the group’s official photographer. This image is one of hundreds by Russell documenting Haupt’s engineering feats involving railroad track and bridge construction, repair, and demolition. Russell’s photographs were used to illustrate engineering operations in Haupt’s official reports, copies of which were employed as instructional tools for other units.
Although his job was to document, Russell was concerned with aesthetics. In this photograph the elevated vantage point and strong contrasts of light and dark allow for the most detailed view of the bridge repair. They also help define the bridge as a central design element around which the carefully balanced composition is organized. Images such as this—beautiful, yet technical in nature—mark the beginning of American industrial photography and foreshadow Russell’s later and better-known work for the Union Pacific Railroad.

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