“Securing a Likeness”: Union Soldiers Visit the Photographer’s Studio

Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome back guest poster James Brookes

Many northern volunteers had a portrait taken upon their enlistment. Several post-war memoirs exist in which Union veterans recall a visit to the photographer as a significant moment in their transition from civilian to citizen-soldier. These accounts reveal not only the subjects’ unfamiliarity towards the difficult conditions of military service but also their incomprehension of soldierly demeanour and their naïve appreciation towards the seemingly-novel military uniforms they donned. The theatrical nature of photographic studio manifests itself in range of ways in these accounts. The photographic portrait of the subject cloaked in military regalia and bearing ferocious props acts as a confirmation of the man’s fulfilment of his obligation as a citizen-soldier. This stands in opposition to the fact that these men testify that they were in no way full-fledged soldiers at this point in their temporary military vocations.

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