Between the Rocks
In July 1863, during the period of the American Civil War (1861 - 1865), British photographer Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) created the iconic photograph, The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg. The photograph is apart of Gardner’s publication Photographic Sketchbook of the War (1865) which holds a collection of hundred photographs taken during the war period. The work demonstrates the tragic aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg and focuses on one dead solider lying inside, what Gardner called, a “sharpshooter’s den.” The Civil War was one of the first wars to be documented by the relatively new invention of photography. The process was laborious and lengthy which limited the photographers to documenting campsites, military preparations and/or the aftermath of battles, rather than the action itself.
Like other Civil War photographers, Gardner communicated both pathos and patriotism within his photographs; reminding his audience of the tragedy of war without forgetting the superiority of his side's - the Unionists - cause. To help the effectivity of Gardner’s cause he felt it right to create a scene which contained a narrative to accompany the picture. Gardner’s The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg therefore became the subject of controversy due to later analysis revealing that Gardner had staged the image to help intensify the emotional affect upon the viewer. At the beginning of the Civil War, Gardner worked as a photographer for the studio of Mathew Brady (1822 - 1896), leading a team of photographers that accompanied the Union army. Gardner left Brady’s studio in 1862, and by May 1863, he and his brother, James, started their own studio that ultimately proved to be competition. The photograph The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg was one of the first photographs created for the new studio.
The work Between the Rocks focuses on the association between the landscape of the American Civil War, British photographer Alexander Gardner and the merchandising of the iconic photograph. Set on a historic site - next to the battlefields - of Gettysburg; Sharpshooters Bar and Grille gives credibility to both the site and the iconic image. Using black and white British Ilford film, the work focuses on the metaphorical nature of the objects within the Sharpshooters Bar and Grille, Gettysburg, using them to suggest the chronotopic nature of the setting and the contemporary association, and detailing, of the ‘aftermath of battles rather than the action itself’. The title takes it’s name from the accommodating text in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War (1865) relating to the subject of the sharpshooter; ‘some mother may yet be patiently watching for the return of her boy, whose bones lie bleaching, unrecognized and alone, between the rocks at Gettysburg’.