Heavy boxes of glass. A portable darkroom. Noxious chemicals. A cumbersome camera. Field photography during the U.S. Civil War was an arduous process far removed from the relatively effortless digital image-snapping of today’s pocket-sized cameras and phones. And it was the strange beauty of this process—so labor intensive, so unfamiliar to our modern eyes—that curator Jennifer A. Watts sought to present to her audience (and—full disclosure—that I as the filmmaker sought to depict) with “In the Usual Manner,” the short film featured in the online component of her Civil War photography show, “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning, and Memory in the American Civil War.”
In the video below, Watts discusses her choice to bring in contemporary artist Barret Oliver—well-versed in 19th-century photo processes—to shoot the mausoleum with his Civil War–style gear while digital cameras rolled.
“In the Usual Manner” will screen as part of Echo Park Film Center’s New Works Salon at 8:00 p.m. on Dec. 15.
“A Strange and Fearful Interest” is on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery through Jan. 14, 2013. The exhibition’s online component will continue to be available indefinitely.
Kate Lain is the new media developer in the office of communications at The Huntington.