QUOTE: “Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” Edgar Allan Poe

A portrait of Miss E. Demine, taken by photographer Mathew Brady (courtesy NARA)
A portrait of Miss E. Demine, taken by photographer Mathew Brady (courtesy NARA)

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes…”

George Gordon Byron

The Photographer Who Convinced Everyone To Sit For Him But The Dead

The Photographer
The Photographer

“My greatest aim has been to advance the art of photography and to make it what I think I have, a great and truthful medium of history.”  Matthew Brady

Matthew Brady: the man behind all of those Civil War photos; the man who convinced everyone to sit for him but the dead.

Almost no one smiled in Brady’s photographs. Smiles are elusive, too hard then to bottle. One of the things Mr. Wilson makes plain about Brady, however, is that he himself had a terrific smile. In his presence, one observer said, you felt “the light of an Irish shower sun.” THE NEW YORK TIMES




Dying For A Lost Cause–Is It Worth It?

Fun times in the slammer.
Fun times in the slammer.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow‘s father was murdered at random by an unknown assailant. That’s enough of a story for most lives, but there’s more. This pretty little lady became a famous Confederate spy credited by Jeff Davis for the win at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Before the war she married well and moved to Washington, DC becoming instantly popular with the political crowd. Unfortunately her husband was killed in an accident, after which Rose determined to support the South in any way she could. Four of her eight children actually made it out of toddler-hood with their lives. The youngest is pictured above visiting her mother in prison after being caught as a spy.

After getting out Rose ran the blockade, sailing to Europe in search of support for the Confederate cause. The British blockade runner carrying her back to the states ran aground after being pursued by a Union gunboat. Rose, afraid of getting caught,  jumped into a rowboat, but a wave capsized it and she drowned, weighed down by $2000 worth of gold for the Confederate cause sewn into her underclothes and hung around her neck.


Amazing Artist’s Studio–Rent Free!


Artist capturing war being documented.

The Civil War’s being fought stage right, but the lens is on the artist and how perfectly the life of an artist is captured here. Note the look of intense sympathy, horrified interest and serious intent. Maybe he posed for the camera and sketching battles was just this man’s boring day job, but today I won’t be cynical. I believe his eyes. He’s there to document humanity. I hope he gets closer. I hope that when Matthew Brady, the photographer of the Civil War brings his cameras right next to a dead young man with bloated belly and shirt pulled from his trousers alerting the viewer to the fact that the boy had just enough time to see where he’d been shot, that this artist, got past the smells and the maggots and saw the boy.

I hope as a writer that I get past the big picture, the seemingly endless gallery of black and white documents that tell us how we’re supposed to feel about the rich, the Egyptians, the poor and the gay. I hope that when a gay character walks in to book two I’m able to get at the depth and struggles and humor of him without the world’s photos obscuring the man. I hope Thankful Crenshaw doesn’t put in a cardboard performance after reading feminist magazines of the day.

I’m going to hang this photograph up to remind me of how lucky I am to be part of a long tradition of writers and artists–most of whom are now forgotten, who were given a deep and abiding love, a true gift in itself, for this world and the flawed people who break out of black and white and bleed into grey.

Life is dark and bleak and lovely and rich, and I imagine that this gaunt looking artist with fantastic boots captured it all.