As an idealistic young reporter and newspaper editor in Glasgow, Scotland,
Alexander Gardner dreamed of forming a semi-socialistic colony somewhere
in what he thought of as the unspoiled wilderness of America. He selected
a place in Iowa, but even though he sent family and friends to live there,
Gardner never joined them. Instead, when he disembarked in New York he
remained. The celebrated American photographer Mathew Brady had probably
paid for his passage, though how they came to be acquainted is unknown.
Gardner, who had spent his spare time in Scotland studying science, became
Brady's assistant for seven years. He was manager of Brady's Washington,
D.C., gallery until the American Civil War broke out in 1861.
Working for Brady's studio until 1862, Gardner is said to have made three-quarters
of the campaign pictures of the Army of the Potomac. In 1866 he published
Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War, the first published collection
of Civil War photographs, comprised of one hundred photographs by himself
and eleven photographers working for him, including Timothy O'Sullivan
and John Reekie. It was a commercial failure. After the war Gardner finally
traveled West to his promised land, photographing along the way.
© 2004 J. Paul Getty