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Image of Battlefields, Antietam (Last Light)

Sally Mann , b. May 1, 1951

Battlefields, Antietam (Last Light)

2001
38 in. x 48 in. (96.52 cm x 121.92 cm)

Medium and Support: Gelatin silver enlargement print
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Accession Number: 2004.17

Commentary

In September 1862, photographer Alexander Gardner went to the
battlefields of Antietam, where he produced about seventy pictures of the
bloodiest battle on American soil. Never before had photographs visualized
the ghastly realities of warfare and the cost of lives lost. When on
view at Mathew Brady’s New York Gallery, the gruesome images shocked
viewers, including The New York Times who reported: “Mr. Brady has
done something to bring home this terrible reality and earnestness of
war. If he has not brought the bodies and laid them in our dooryards and
along the streets, he has done something very like it…”

In 2001 Sally Mann created her own series of photographs of Antietam,
for which she used the same technically crude process of chemicals and
glass plates as Gardner. While both sets of photographs evoke themes of
mortality and decay, Mann’s pictures are polar opposites of Gardner’s
images of blood-spattered corpses strewn on the battlefield. Haunting
and vacant, the ghostly landscape in Untitled [Antietam #12] is dark,
stained, and ambiguous. While more abstract than Gardner’s graphic
photographs, Sally Mann’s Antietam series is as equally powerful and
moving. Eschewing the physical remnants of death and decay, she chooses
instead to focus on what remains deep within the landscape over one
hundred years later.

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