I’m Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center.
In mid-September, 1864, George N. Barnard arrives in Atlanta.
He is the official photographer of Sherman’s army.
While army engineers survey roads, rail lines and topography, he photographs fortifications, streets and the rail yard.
Barnard completes around 200 photographs. His are all the known images of Civil War Atlanta.
His task is not an easy one.
He and his staff travel dirt streets and rough roads in a covered wagon – carrying equipment, chemicals and, critically, negatives … that are made of glass.
Glass negatives are the standard technology of the time.
For large photographs, the glass is up to twelve by fifteen inches.
He also requires an outdoor facility – such as his portable darkroom – chemicals, and fresh water –
...and time to set up, prepare the glass plate, shoot the image, and develop the negative
… all on site.
Because every step of the process requires the glass to remain wet –
It cannot dry.
And Georgia is hot.
Barnard photographs a ghost town.
A city that boasted 20,000 residents at the start of 1864 now has a few hundred civilians – and an army of occupation.
I’m Masud Olufani and this is week twenty-three.