Robert Wilson is the editor of The American Scholar and a former editor of Preservation. His articles, reviews, and op-eds have appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, The Wilson Quarterly, and The Boston Globe. He is the author of The Explorer King and the editor of A Certain Somewhere: Writers on the Places They Remember. He lives in Manassas, Virginia.
Mathew Brady’s attention to detail, flair for composition, and technical mastery helped establish the photograph as a thing of value. In the 1840s and ’50s, “Brady of Broadway” photographed such dignitaries as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Dolley Madison, Horace Greeley, the Prince of Wales, and Jenny Lind. But it was during the Civil War that Brady’s photography became an epochal part of American history.
The Civil War was the first war in history to leave a detailed photographic record, and Brady knew better than anyone the dual power of the camera to record and excite, to stop a moment in time and preserve it. More than ten thousand war images are attributed to the Brady studio. But as Wilson shows, while Brady himself accompanied the Union army to the first major battle at Bull Run, he was so shaken by the experience that throughout the rest of the war he rarely visited battlefields except well before or after a major battle, instead sending teams of photographers to the front.
Mathew Brady is a gracefully written and beautifully illustrated biography of an American legend—a businessman, a suave promoter, a celebrated portrait artist, and, most important, a historian who chronicled America during the gravest moments of the nineteenth century.
“[A] fascinating account of how the business of photography worked in the mid-19th century.” —The Washington Post
“Compact, straightforward, unblinking . . . a flinty chunk of Americana.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[A] thorough and polished narrative . . . [Wilson] skillfully summons up a sense of time and place.” —USA Today
"[A] patient and painstaking new biography of the portraitist and Civil War photographer." —New York Times Book Review
"Wilson's book is a welcome and overdue tribute to a man whose achievements are often noted but rarely plumbed. It's one that's likely to last." —History News Network