In search of Alexander Gardner, the author travels to America to walk the battle sites immortalised in the photographs of his hero, Scots-born Alexander Gardner.
Since his first encounter as a impressionable teenager with Gardner's photographs of the aftermath of the battle of Antietam, Keith Steiner has come to believe that Gardner's battlefield photographs are key historic documents of the conflict. He also believes that Gardner's status as one of the greatest of photographers remains unrecognised and his achievement is often overlooked by history in favour of his one-time employer Matthew Brady.
Forty years after that dramatic first encounter, the author stood on the same ground at Antietam and at Gettysburg where his hero exposed the classic photographs. On this same ground, he began to gain an understanding of the source of the power and continuing presence of Gardner's artistic legacy, and of the mystery of his imagery. In order to understand the enduring nature of the imagery, the book travels back in time, but also looks to the present and future, to meditate on the meaning of imagery. Steiner considers Gardner's `debt' to the work of WHF Talbot, and the `debt' that modern photography and cine-photography owes to him; a debt that may have been gently acknowledged recently in the Hollywood feature film Lincoln, which contains references to Alexander Gardner.
Whilst in America, the author also made an attempt to discover if Lewis H Steiner, a Union officer in the Sanitary Commission in 1862, was one of his own antecedents. Steiner was known to have been active in the area of Maryland around the time of the battle of Antietam. Although this remains unsolved, his travels led to a discovery in the form of a more profound understanding of the mystery and power of the photography of Alexander Gardner. In the Footsteps of Alexander Gardner at Antietam and Gettysburg will appeal to American civil war enthusiasts and anyone interested in the history and theory of photography. It is being released this year, recognising the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Keith Steiner, the great nephew of celebrated Swiss landscape photographer Albert Steiner (1877-1965), now follows in the footsteps of his great uncle with his own publication. He is a retired schoolteacher, and an amateur photographer and painter.