Offering a unique glimpse into American history, this is the first book to celebrate the compelling work of the United States' first federal photographer
Features 160 photographs capturing Washington, DC in the midst of Civil War
Despite his prolific career as the first US federal photographer, John Wood has been largely forgotten. With 160 stunning, high-resolution images, Magnificent Intentions establishes Wood as a leader among American photographers of the time and provides historical context for his overlooked work and legacy, which includes:
- The first inauguration photo, from James Buchanan's inauguration in 1857
- Newly uncovered evidence that Wood was the photographer who documented Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration in 1861, the only surviving photograph of that historic event
- Hundreds of photographs of the construction of public buildings in DC, most notably the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Aqueduct
- Pioneering innovations in the use of photography to duplicate maps and plans during the Civil War
- The first panoramic photos of Washington, DC
Adrienne Lundgren, senior photograph conservator at the Library of Congress, explores how Wood's life shaped his photographic eye and examines innovative techniques that made him a pioneer among his contemporaries, including his use of uncommonly large format plates and his experimentation with the dry collodion process. The book includes an enriching foreword from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and not only celebrates the artistic and technical merit of Wood's photos, but also chronicles the fascinating evolution of early photography and the federal government's use of the medium to shape public understanding of the American experience.
Magnificent Intentions shines the spotlight on a little-known photographer with a masterful collection. From getting dispatched to the frontlines to photograph maps for General George B. McClellan to witnessing the installation of the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol dome, Wood captured significant moments of the mid-19th century. His photos document the construction of transformative buildings that reflected a country with its eye on the future, even as it was gripped by the Civil War.