It didn’t take long for the world’s early daguerreotypists to begin capturing images of newsworthy events, as lecturer Bob Zeller shows in his image-rich, one-hour presentation.
Parades, funerals, fires, floods, train wrecks, political rallies, wars, and hangings were part of life in the 1840 and 1850s, and the visual record of some of them were preserved on silver plates. The first war ever photographed – the Mexican War – is featured, as well as the California Gold Rush, where Zeller focuses on lost daguerreotypes of news events that were preserved only as lithographs as well as plates that have survived.
The talk also features history’s first documented combat action photographs as well as several remarkable four-frame sequential wet plate photos taken in 1864 that reveal themselves as crude motion pictures when animated. As he reaches the end of the war, he shows how news events were being photographed as they happened in moment-by-moment images, even though the first halftone newspaper photo was still 15 years in the future. To conclude, he returns to daguerreotypes, with three final photojournalistic plates taken in 1865 and 1867.
Zeller, a writer and historian, is co-founder and president of The Center for Civil War Photography. He also edits the organization’s historical journal, Battlefield Photographer.
As a lecturer on Civil War photography for more than 30 years, Zeller has presented 3-D shows at the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Associates, Museum of the Confederacy, Chrysler Museum, the Newseum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Maryland Historical Society and more than 150 other venues.
Presented on September 12, 2020.