The Wounded

War Photography at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

The end of the draft marked the beginning of the military as a subculture. Art about and by the army has worked to bridge the newly widened gap between soldiers and the rest of the country, helping civilians get as far inside the minds of soldiers as it is possible to get in the quiet safety of a gallery.

Two new photography exhibits, running concurrently at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through May 20, approach war in starkly different ways. These differences correspond to important differences in the experiences of soldiers a century and a half apart.

The two exhibits take up adjoining rooms. The first, titled “Shadows of History,” is in a white and open room, with small framed Civil War photographs on the walls. These are typically wide-view images, with small human figures ranged around ruins or equipment. There are no extreme angles and few distorting uses of perspective, although at least one of the photos is probably posed—the famous “A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg.” In most of these photos the men are reduced to their roles as soldiers. Even the photo titled “Father Scully Preaching to the 9th Mass. Regt.” doesn’t actually show what it promises: instead of preaching or otherwise leading worship, the priest is standing with the other men facing the camera, his...

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About the Author

Eve Tushnet is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C. Her blog can be read here.