|Mathew Brady portrayed by Wayne Ritchie||
When we see the number of Civil War photographs bearing the name of Mathew B. Brady, we assume that he was the leading photographer of the war. In actuality he took few if, indeed, any of the estimated 3,500 pictures that bear his name. The native New Yorker had studied painting before being attracted to the photographic process of Louis J. M. Daguerre. He opened a portrait studio in a New York during the 1840's, utilizing the improved daguerreotype.
Eventually he also set up a studio in Washington D. C., where he caught the images of some of the most famous people of the era. At the beginning of the Civil War he was determined to accompany the troops into the field and record the scenes of camps and battlefields utilizing the newer wet-plate process. However, by this time his eyesight was failing, and he probably took none of the images in the field. They were in fact taken by a large corps of assistants, most notably Alexander Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan and James F. Gibson. Many of his assistants resented the lack of credit and either joined other firms or set up their own. Brady, however, did accompany his teams into the field frequently, as is evidenced by the numerous exposures in which he is included. His postwar career was not very successful financially. Both the Library of Congress and the national Archives have extensive holdings of the work of his firm.
At the onset of the conflict, Mathew Brady had forged a name for himself as a photographer. During the war Brady's studio teams set out to obtain a pictorial view of the war and obtained photos of commanders, battlefields, victories, and the suffering of the sick and wounded.
For Mathew Brady the war was a financial disaster and even the sale of his archives some years after the war could not save Mr. Brady from bankruptcy, though his photographs have left a legacy of the war and provided the first ever-pictorial view of wars carnage.