Battlefields, Manassas (Airplane)
American, born 1951
Mann’s “Antietam” series is central to her exploration of death and loss, especially as understood in the South. Although no figures are present in this or any of her “Antietam” landscapes, the brooding darkness and richly textured surface suggest the tragic legacy of this Civil War battlefield. On a single day in Antietam in September 1862, 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or declared missing—one of the greatest one-day losses in American history.
Mann’s use of the collodion wet-plate process produces the painterly quality of this image. Prevalent from 1851 to 1855, the collodion technique requires the photographer to quickly flow a thick chemical mixture onto a glass plate that is then light-sensitized through submersion in a silver nitrate bath. Mann takes advantage of chance marks that occur in the process of making plates—scratches, dust, and other surface variations scar the surface and suggest a turbulent atmosphere that underscores the history of the place.