The first camera was built in France. Two French artists named Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre worked together on the camera from 1829 to 1833. When Niépce died in 1833, Daguerre continued working on the camera (Nardo 18). His prototype used a thin, rectangular plate that was coated with a thin layer of silver and exposed to iodine and bromide fumes. The photographer would slide the plate into the back of the camera where it exposed to the sunlight and records the image before the camera (18). Samuel F.B. Morse, commonly known for his invention of the telegraph and Morse code, travelled to Europe in 1838 to track down Daguerre. After observing Daguerre’s camera, Morse travelled back to New York in 1839 where he built a camera based on Niépce and Daguerre’s. He called the images developed by the camera Daguerreotypes (19). Morse began working with John W. Draper to further develop the invention (20).
Years after Morse and Draper’s work, in the mid-1850s, the Daguerreotype was replaced by wet collodion processes (Cooper). This process was just as difficult as the Daguerreotype process; the photographer had to place the wet plate in the plate holder, attach it to the back of the camera, aim the lens at the subject, remove the cover and expose the plate for a few seconds, and finally develop with mercury in a darkroom (Nardo 5-6). The tintype process, a type of collodion process, gained a large amount of popularity before and during the Civil War. Photographers made many small tintypes called “gems” and medals of candidates for the campaign of 1860 (Cooper).
When the Civil War came, photographers not only took portraits of military commanders, but they also photographed scenes of the battlefield, daily life in the camps, houses, ships, railroads, and hospitals (Wala). One drawback of the technology at the time was they rarely were able to photograph actual battles because of a long shutter-speed causing blurring (Hunt). An important milestone in photography was the first photograph of the Civil war. This was taken by Alma A Pelot, who passed the Isabel as it was evacuating Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861 (Zeller 42). Pelot also took photographs of Fort Sumter after the surrender from five different points of view (42). Another milestone was the first aerial photograph of the war, which was taken by J.D. Edwards from New Orleans. He climbed up a 160-foot lighthouse to photograph Confederate camps and the Gulf of Mexico. Before going out of business, Edwards boasted the most comprehensive photographic collection of Confederate camps, soldiers, and installments (49-50).
George S. Cook was an important Civil War photographer because his letters with Captain Samuel Crawford, M.D. show how photographers corresponded with their clients. Crawford was Major Robert Anderson’s assistant while occupying Fort Sumter. Cook managed to snake his way to Fort Sumter even though nobody was supposed to get in. After photographing...