Alexander Gardner (Documentary Photography)

The truth is balance. However the opposite of truth, which is unbalance, may not be a lie.
/ Susan Sontag /

Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg

A sharpshooter has come to grief in a rocky gully. His eyes are losed and his belongings scattered; someone has propped his gun against the stones of the embrasure, as a sign of his trade.

There is strong evidence to suggest that this picture was staged. Its content is heavy with meaning – sharpshooters representing sight and the rocks symbolizing nature in the raw.

/ The Photo Book, p167 /

Gardner felt no compunction about rebuilding a scene for his camera to witness. He used artistic “effect” to deliver what he considered to be an accurate representation based on the foundation developed by painters and sculptors for depicting historical events.

Gardner arrived two days after the ferocious battle of Gettysburg and moved the body of a Confederate infantryman about 40 yards and added a Springfield musket (not a sharpshooter’s rifle) to the scene, and turned the corpse’s face toward the camera, thus forcing viewers to gaze directly into the tragedy that produced 51,000 casualties.

I think that documentary photography should be about the truth. To represent the situations we are unable to experience, to share the moment, even if it is not pleasant.

I do not support photographers who use their position as documentary photographers to recreate/stage the truth, moving dead bodies around just to get better result/composition etc. 

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