Battlefields, Manassas (Lumpy Cedar)

Accession Number

Battlefields, Manassas (Lumpy Cedar)

Sally Mann

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
varnished gelatin silver print on paper

40 in. x 4 ft. 2 1/16 in. (101.6 x 127.16 cm);40 1/2 in. x 4 ft. 2 11/16 in. (102.87 x 128.75 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund

Label copy
March 28, 2009
In this peculiar place of stilled time, the spirits seemed to drift up in the ground fog rising from the fields…I wondered how many of these vistas were the final vision for closing eyes.
—Sally Mann
In 2000 Sally Mann began traveling to various battlefields of the United States Civil War, from Fredricksburg and Manassas in her native Virginia, to Antietam in neighboring Maryland, visiting the soil where American lives were lost in record numbers. Her goal was to walk “among the accretions of millions of remains—the bones, lives, souls, hopes, joys and fears that devolved into the earth.” Her photographs of these sites explore how death affects perceptions of place.
In this photograph Mann is literally examining the present through the lens of the past. It was made using the nineteenth-century collodion wet-plate process. This technique involves coating an 8 x 10 inch glass plate with chemicals, bathing it in a silver nitrate solution, and exposing it to light while still wet. When used to capture distant vistas, the effect is similar to that of a night photograph. The glowing, unsettled points of light are the result of exposure, developing, and printing (which Mann does herself). Sand is used to create a tactile surface, further brought out through an unusual process of varnishing. The resulting glimmerings and surface modifications are suggestive of the spirits of those who fell and may still, Mann suggests, inhabit the land.

Subject matter
Sally Mann used a nineteenth-century wet-collodion process to make this photograph look aged. The ethereal landscape of rural Virginia evokes a sense of history and the memory of a pastoral past. The subtitle of the work, Manassas #25, reminds us that this image depicts the location of a Civil War battlefield. The resulting image makes it seem as if the ghosts of the antebellum South and of the Civil War still haunt the landscape. This photograph is part of a larger series by Mann titled Last Measure, which comprises a number of wet-collodion images of Civil War battlefields. 

Physical Description
Antique- and aged-looking photograph of a dreamy, perhaps nocturnal, landscape. In the foreground, a massive tree rises up into the hazy night, and trees recede into the distance. White pock marks give the whole scene, sky and land, an ethereal starry look.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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civil wars
historic landscapes
landscape format

14 Related Resources

(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Grief and Mourning Rituals
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Landscape and Nature, Comparative and Historical
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Nature in Photography
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Southern Landscapes and Cityscapes
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
U.S. Civil War
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
U.S. Wars
(Part of 6 Learning Collections)
Docent Materials for Material Science CE
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Objects from Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation
(Part of: <b>Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation</b>)

& Author Notes

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