Analysis Of A Harvest Of Death

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In Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War, the haunting image “Harvest of Death” catches one’s eye with the seemingly endless field of corpses. The jarring facial expression on the figure in the foreground draws one into the narrative of the piece. However, our initial understanding of the image’s narrative is limited to what we can see and what we know of the circumstances surrounding it. While we know it was taken during the American Civil War, by simply looking at the photograph, we cannot know who is depicted. In black and white, it is difficult to even tell what side of the conflict these fallen soldiers fought for. We can interpret the image for our own readings, but we cannot tell what the artist intended us to see or what message he wanted to impart with it. These unknowns, however, are addressed in the related text associated with the image. These short passages can tell us a great deal about the photographer’s intentions and influence the way we read the image. Through the excerpt, we not only learn the intended meaning of the photography, but we also learn about Gardner’s political intentions and the key points he wanted his viewers to note within the image. Published as a pair, Gardner used his text to contextualize his images and inform the way we perceive them. This is clearly illustrated in “A Harvest of Death” and its accompanying passage.
Visually, “A Harvest of Death” is a disturbing. We see a large field littered with dead bodies.
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