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March 6, 2015 – September 13, 2015
Museum: Portrait Gallery
Alexander Gardner's "cracked-plate" portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was taken 150 years ago, on February 5, 1865. Arguably the most iconic likeness of the 16th president today, it was created by a man whose life and photographic career remain relatively undocumented and underappreciated. This oversight is notable, as Gardner (1821-1882) was perhaps the most progressive photographer of the Civil War era; he was influential not only in advancing photographic portraiture beyond traditional compositional conventions, but also in realizing photography' power as a documentary tool. In his mind, photographs were more than static likenesses; they were active images capable of conveying narrative and recording history. The author of the first American photographic book, a leading contributor of photographic views to the illustrated press, and a dedicated abolitionist, Gardner was a pioneer in his field.