Timothy O’Sullivan

https://i1.wp.com/agonistica.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/imrs-7.jpgA quick wikipedia search told me that this photo is of a real battlefield. Titled, The Harvest of Death, it is O’Sullivan’s most famous work, taken at Gettysburg. The first thing I notice is the soldiers in the foreground. Their bloated appearance, and the face of the foremost man suggest they have been dead for a couple days. The detail in the closest man’s face is the most stiking thing about this image to me. Apparently, the battle of Gettysburg happened in a completely exposed, flat field, suggesting a massacre. The balance of objects in the picture is nearly perfect – bodies, trees, light, hills, men. I notice the ridge-lines in the background are diagonally oriented, pointed out and toward the center of the page. This reminds me of the Gestalt size constancy principle, or whatever that is called in art theory. The smoke or fog or old film or overexposure or lighting, or whatever that blurriness in the background is, is more concentrated in the center of the photo. Also in the center of the photo are two men (one of them appears to be wearing a backpack for scavenging), and a man on horseback. The title suggests they are plundering the bodies, likely for personal gain.

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