Friedlander, often referred to as “a photographer’s photographer,” and one of the most influential photographers of our time, here is concerned with Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee, the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Fought in two days in April, 1862, the battle of Shiloh turned the tide of the war in the North’s favor.
In the process of creating a memorial such as Shiloh, boundaries are demarcated, signs placed, while history and events continue outside of its perimeters. Not content to simply document the piles of cannon shot and the tourist plaques, Friedlander also addresses the boundary lines between the artificial and the pastoral that make up the memorial. The result is much more than a record of a National Park; it is a sentimental evocation of a natural place, the locus of a historic event.
In Shiloh, Friedlander continues the tradition of Mathew Brady, Timothy O’Sullivan and George Barnard, the great photographers of the Civil War. Photographically, the portfolio is a celebration of recollection, a melancholic essay in overcast light and wistful tonalities, a pastoral of recollected bloodshed, and a revelation that beneath the sculpture and within the forests, there is still the animated presence of the American past.