Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields through a Pinhole Camera

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9781581573800: Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields through a Pinhole Camera

A fresh and surprising look at the American Civil War through pinhole camera photographs of sesquicentennial battlefield reenactments

In 2011, Michael Falco set out to document the American Civil War's 150th anniversary by photographing reenactments of more than 20 major battles―from the First Manassas, Antietam, and Chancellorsville to Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Appomattox. But rather than shooting these historic re-creations in high-definition, Falco opted for a different, older medium: a pinhole camera. This antebellum photographic technology, shot from an on-the-ground perspective, captures these battlefields in a way that feels more “real” and fully realized than even the famous daguerrotypes made during the war itself. In Falco's transporting photographs, the smoke-filled battle reenactments become blurred and dreamlike, echoing the sentiments found in the actual letters and journals of soldiers who fought and died there. Throughout, historical photographs from the period offer context to the modern-day re-creations, showing just how much―or how little―has changed on this hallowed ground. One hundred and fifty years after the last soldier fell, Echoes of the Civil War provides beautiful and compelling evidence of a Civil War landscape that is, literally and metaphorically, still with us.
150 color photographs

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About the Author:

Michael Falco is an award-winning photojournalist who lives and works in New York City. A regular contributor to The New York Times and National Geographic, Falco’s previous books include Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America’s Main Street. Many of his images are on permanent display in the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and his panoramic work documenting the Fresh Kills Landfill is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Review:

A Civil War enthusiast since his childhood, photographer Michael Falco set out on a four-year, battlefield-to-battlefield odyssey coinciding with the war’s 150th anniversary. The result is the wonderfully haunting Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields through a Pinhole Camera (Countryman Press, $35, 288 pages, ISBN 9781581573800). “Soldiers’ journals and memoirs describe the battlefields as dream-like,” Falco writes, “and that is how they appear through the patient eye of the pinhole camera.” While exploring major battle sites from Bull Run to Appomattox, Falco became not just a chronicler but a re-enactor himself, dressing in period clothing as he set up his primitive wooden box camera, using modern film but no lens, viewfinder or shutter. Along with these evocative photos, Falco interweaves past and present through his narrative as he “tumbled down the rabbit hole of Civil War history.” Echoes of the Civil War will hold great appeal for history and photography buffs alike.

 


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