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Picturing a world at war

August 6, 2011

Sometimes beautiful words, colorful maps and heartwrenching diary entries are simply not enough to fully appreciate the day-to-day nightmare of civil war. Sometimes a frayed, black and white photograph is all you need to tell the story, complicate one’s understanding, or upend shallow assumptions.

The frightening desolation of a field littered with swollen bodies, the angry eyes of a proud Union soldier, the smoking wreckage of a derailed train — these are images that dare us to try to understand what we see in them. They are terrible and beautiful moments frozen in time until our eyes rest upon them, our imaginations re-energizing them into movement, injecting scents, sounds and emotions, hoping somehow that we understand them a little better. Sometimes, that’s enough.

This afternoon I discovered Shorpy.com and its wonderful collection of Civil War photos. Take a moment to stroll through the gallery. The beauty and sadness is mesmerizing.

Thanks to my friend, the attorney Jim Dedman, one of the authors of the legal blog Abnormal Use, for sending this piece my way.

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:

1. RUSHING Moby
2. CANTAR AL AMOR Marc Antoine
3. BLINDFOLD Morcheeba
4. FOREVER Goldfrapp
5. GRACE U2
6. HURRY ON NOW Alice Russell
7. NEVER ON SUNDAY Pink Martini
8. IT’S NOT MY CROSS TO BEAR The Allman Brothers Band
9. JA VIDI Christophe Goze
10. NOVEMBER RAIN Guns N’ Roses

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