BARNARD, George N. (1819-1902)
Gorge, Lookout Mountain
[1864-1866]. Albumen photograph, approximately (10 3/4 x 14 1/4 inches) on card mount (16 3/8 x 21 inches). Printed caption beneath the image.
Unique large albumen Civil War photograph by George Barnard.
Barnard had worked as a photographer documenting the Civil War from about 1861, initially working for Mathew Brady and Edward Anthony, and then, from December 1863, for the Topographical Branch of the Department of Engineers, Army of the Cumberland, based in Nashville. Under the direction of Captain of Engineers Orlando M. Poe, Barnard ran the army's photographic operations. Bernard continued to work for the Union army until June 1865, recording a number of well-known locations, and taking part in Sherman's campaign, behind the front lines, taking photographs in his capacity as an official army photographer. In 1866, Barnard would publish his monumental Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign. "[It] is a remarkable work of great symbolic, historic, and artistic power. It is a result of a complex interweaving of Barnard's personal vision, nineteenth-century pictorial conventions, and larger ideas about war and the American landscape. The album was the most ambitious project of Barnard's career, and has long been recognized as a landmark in the history of photography" (Davis p.170). Indeed, the work has been called the first great landscape photobook. The above image is not found in Barnard's Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign, instead comprising part of the impressive work done at Lookout Mountain for General Orlando M. Poe and the Corps of Topographical Engineers. "Barnard's photographs from the summit of Lookout Mountain were taken in several positions. It is clear that he was fascinated by the aesthetic potential of this site, and used a set of visual motifs in a variety of permutations. These motifs included the majestic sweep of the landscape itself, the sinuous path of the Tennessee River, the contrast between rocky outcroppings in the foreground and the forested landscape below, and the presence of self-absorbed spectators within this natural grandeur. While central to the landscape art of this era, these themes had rarely been so eloquently expressed in photography" (Davis, p. 67).
Keith F. Davis. George N. Barnard Photographer of Sherman's Campaign (Kansas City, 1990).