The following is from the July 2, 2007, print edition of U.S. News & World Report
By DAVID LaGESSE
U.S. News & World Report
A National Archives photo, attributed to Mathew Brady, of General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Cold Harbor.
Many of the best-known photos from the Civil War are credited to Mathew Brady. But chances are, he didn't actually shoot most of them. There's a chance he didn't shoot any.
As head of the nation's best-known studio before the war and friend to presidents and generals, Brady was able to organize, finance, and direct teams of photographers who traveled to the battlefields. Clearly, Brady went along sometimes and maybe directed some photos despite his failing eyesight because he personally appears in some pictures attributed to him (that alone should hint someone was helping).
Was he unfairly stealing credit? That's still debated among historians, though most think his assistants understood they worked for Brady. It's much like a portrait today that is stamped with the studio's name. "It doesn't credit the individual photographer," says Anne Peterson, a photo curator at Southern Methodist University. She is studying the work of Alexander Gardner, a Brady assistant, and discounts speculation that hard feelings over attribution led Gardner to leave Brady during the war. It probably had more to do with Brady's business problems, which meant Gardner and other assistants most likely were paid very little, and not very often.
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