In May of 1856, John Wood became the United States’ first federal government photographer. Assigned to photograph the building of the Capitol Extension and Dome, Wood was uniquely positioned to capture not only the progress of the construction but also key events on its grounds, including two presidential inaugurations, James Buchanan in 1857 and Abraham Lincoln in 1861.
Wood’s images were often distributed as a means to garner political and financial support for the Capitol building project. In keeping with their use, Wood framed his works as both documentary and as a means of capturing the Emersonian ideals of America as a place of, “beginnings, of projects, of designs and expectations.”
In this talk, Adrienne Lundgren discusses this important and virtually unknown figure in American photography, covering Wood’s Capitol images and his time in the Civil War with the Army of the Potomac.
Lundgren is a Senior Photograph Conservator in the Library of Congress Conservation Division. She earned her Master of Science in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware and has published on variety of subjects relating to the technical history of photography. Her publications include the techniques used by Pictorialist photographer Clarence H. White, the history of glycerine in the printing of platinum and palladium photographs, and the historic use of coatings applied to daguerreotypes. In 2012, she was a recipient of the John W. Kluge Staff Fellowship to study the Library’s collection of prints by F. Holland Day. Her current work is on John Wood, the Amateur Photographic Exchange Club, and photographer John Plumbe Jr.
Presented on February 27, 2021.