- Friday, April 9h
- 1:10 – 3pm EST
- Jennifer Raab
- History of Art, Yale University
- Photography and the Crimes of War
- Paper: Photography and the Crimes of War
Whittled wooden spoons, crude baking dishes, artillery shells, and soup bones form a strange, altar-like arrangement. Taken right after the American Civil War, this photograph—known as Relics of Andersonville Prison—was produced by Mathew Brady’s studio in 1866 and pictures objects collected by Clara Barton (later the founder of the American Red Cross) from the notorious Confederate prisoner of war camp. Through the trope of the relic, the image engages with the most pressing issues of the time: finding, naming, and burying the unprecedented number of dead, as well as indicting those responsible. The photograph becomes a political tool to argue for legislative change on behalf of the women and children left behind; a sacred site for mourning and remembrance made portable, reproducible, and collectively available by photographic technology; a means to visualize and racialize pain and sacrifice; and an act of witnessing indelibly shaped by the first use of photographs as legal evidence in a war crimes trial. Widely circulated in its time but little known today, Relics of Andersonville tells a story about violence, grief, advocacy, accusation, memory, and martyrdom. This talk will focus on the photograph’s particular relationship to a newly emerging, but still profoundly unstable, discourse of the evidentiary and of visual testimony.