Friday, April 18, 2014

Brady and Grant

A year or so ago I wrote a rather tragically maudlin post about passion and madness and showed a photograph of Charles Baudelaire that I'd always loved. You can find that post here. I was thinking about that photo again because I stumbled across another photo that I've loved all my life and can't tell you why.

I'm reading a book about writers and artists and dignitaries crossing paths in the past. The friendships that developed from a chance meeting or a business arrangement between two famous authors that is rarely known. An 8 year old Henry James sits for a portrait by Mathew Brady because his father wants a photo. A literary critic happens upon a lunch with Walt Whitman. And the current story is about the collaboration between Mathew Brady (photographer extraordinare) and Ulysses S. Grant. The first photo show is the one below. One of General Grant at his base camp.

From the Britannica 

I saw this image decades ago and instantly became fascinated with Grant. Perhaps it is Brady's skill as a photographer that made me want to know more about this man. Perhaps it's the dark but bold look on Grant's face. I've seen other pictures of the General, many of them by Brady, but none affect me the way this one does. I remember clearly looking at the picture and instantly having a gut reaction of fascination. I have a copy of Grant's autobiography waiting to be read. He was a deeply flawed individual but those often make the most interesting people. I've read accounts of his life but I've never read his own words. I know that he died days after finishing it. When his name was mentioned as a book lover my ears perked up. But before I knew all that, I was still fascinated. That one image was enough to make want to know more about a very unusual man. That says a lot about a photograph.

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