Discuss as:

Photographer brings Civil War to life with centuries-old technology

Richard Barnes

A reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md., this past weekend.

The Civil War was the first war to have dead soldiers photographed before they were buried – most notably by Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner – two pioneers of photojournalism. Drawing on those photographers for inspiration, Richard Barnes goes to different Civil War reenactments and shoots the battles using the same laborious techniques Brady and Gardner used: wet plate photography. 

Richard Barnes

A participant at the reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md., this past weekend.

“You might see a car in the background of my photographs because I am not interested in replicating the past,” Barnes said. “I'm not interested in nostalgia. I'm approaching this from an artistic point of view. I'm interested in what I refer to as the ‘slippage of time.’”

Richard Barnes uses wet plate photography from the era to record the battle reenactments.


Watch Rock Center's report on Richard Barnes.

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest battle in American history, the battle of Antietam. Amid a battlefield full of re-enactors, photographer Richard Barnes commemorated the anniversary with a camera very much like those used during the Civil War.

Related content on PhotoBlog:

Invasion papers found wrapped around cigars in a field let to bloodiest day in U.S. history

Help sought to solve Civil War photo mystery

From DiscoveryNews: How Civil War Photography changed war