So, it was with great pleasure that I received the following from Sarah Simms, Chief Librarian of the Burns Archive, about an interesting and important new book: Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography by R.B. Bontecou written by Stanley B. Burns, MD:
Dr. Stanley Burns has written over forty photographic history books and this new work - SHOOTING SOLDIERS - will be a major contribution to Civil War history. It is the first exposé of clinical photography taken during the war from May 1864 through Spring 1865. The images reveal a new significant chapter of Civil War history. A biography of the surgeon-photographer Reed Brockway Bontecou, MD Surgeon in Charge of Harewood US Army Hospital is included as well as discussions of death and dying. Tables of the units and battles they were in accompany the text.
The war has been under writers’ and scholars’ microscopes for the past 150 years and there are few significant things yet to be uncovered of general interest. The subject of this book is one of them – clinical photography during the war – and the images are artistically posed in the style of the masters of photography, making them major works of art.
There have been dozens of books and articles describing medical aspects of the war but none have, nor could they have presented a history of clinical war photography as Dr. Burns owns the largest collection of clinical images taken during the war and has not heretofore published an exposé of them. In 1980 he published Early Medical Photography in America (1839-1883) – Medical Photography in the Civil War, which has remained the definitive analysis of the use of photography by, of, and for physicians in the war. This current work is a scholarly extension of that study using the 570 clinical cartes de visite photographs in the Harewood US Army Hospital Album.
Bontecou’s photographs are beautiful, artistic representations of photographic art that transcend the subject. This book will become a classic and has been heralded by the Civil War medical historians who have seen the images and text as it was produced. Michael Rhode, Chief Archivist of the Otis Historical Archive, National Museum of Health and Medicine wrote the Foreword. He notes "that the presentation of these images is a great service as even I have not seen most of them."
All of previous Burns Archive publications have been large coffee table size and we have now started to produce books as smaller, easily handled, and carried volumes. SHOOTING SOLDIERS is produced as a fine art photographic text and is coupled with information not available anywhere else.
To get a better understanding of his work you can see the video on The Burns Archive, which is the number one viewed program on Newsweek.com (The Burns Archive on Newsweek, click photo below):
I also encourage you to visit our blog (here) where we showcase various highlights of the collection as well as announce upcoming exhibits, etc.
Several museum exhibitions of Bontecou’s clinical photographs will be presented over the next four years. The first is currently at New York’s Merchant House Museum titled "New York in the Civil War" (April 11–Aug 2011) and was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal on July 16, 2011. Several other venues are scheduled. Among the major museums planning to use Bontecou clinical photographs in their exhibits are the Houston Museum of Fine Arts (2012) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2013).
Official publication date is July 2011. The book is currently available from The Burns Press, retail price $50.00, Case Bound, 6 by 6 3⁄4 inches, 168 pp, ISBN 13978-1-936002-05-4.
I will be posting more on this book after I obtain a copy.