HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHY FOR A MODERN WAR
This spring Staff Sargeant Ed Drew, of the California Air National Guard, decided to record the comrades-in-arms serving alongside him in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Not all that unusual, I suppose. Until you hear about the medium Staff Sargeant Drew employed for these portraits: tintypes, a finicky process popularized during the Civil War as a cheap, though burdensome, means of rendering the likeness of soldiers before they went off to war, perhaps never to be seen again. The tintype process involves an elaborate exposure process involving fragile glass negative plates, hazardous chemicals and specific timing sequences. It is not surprising that tintypes fell out of favor long ago. But Ed Drew's revivalist project demonstrates the quiet beauty and dignity instilled in his subjects by this medium, while simultaneously drawing connections to Civil War subjects 150 years ago.
Today—actually at this very moment, since I am writing this from the train—I am headed down to Washington D.C. with my family for a couple of days. I look forward to experiencing other poignant, powerful photographs about war at this exhibition (which has a great catalogue!), saying a quiet prayer at this humbling museum, and admiring this (newish) memorial. With that in mind, I will be signed off here until I return to NYC on Thursday. Hope you have something fun planned between now and then!
(photos by Ed Drew from the New Yorker here)