In a series of oils, watercolours, and prose full of wit and wisdom and rich with historical allusion, John Ransom Phillips portrays the complexity of nineteenth-century photographer, Mathew Brady. The photographs Brady made have long served to illustrate an era in American history, most notably his portraits of Abraham Lincoln and the images from the Civil War battlefields he captured. Pairing these photographs with his own work, Phillips explores the career of this artist who wanted to make history: An ambitious half-blind man with blue-tinted glasses, straw hat and duster who had the genius to look beyond his thriving New York portrait studio to the battles of the Civil War and was one of the first photographers to shoot in the open air. Paradoxically, Brady sent assistants to photograph his most famous scenes, the battlefields at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Antietam, instructing them to re-arrange the dead to create images that would enhance public notions about death and dying.
John Ransom Phillips is an artist and author whose work has been exhibited internationally at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., and the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art in Chicago; Museo de Arte Moderne in Buenos Aires; the Fundacao de Arte e Cultural de Ubatuba in Sao Paolo, and Zamalek Gallery, Cairo. He holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and has been a faculty member of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. Alan Trachtenberg is The Neil Gray, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies at Yale University, and the author of 'Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans'(1989).