National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Warren County, New York
Scarcely more than twenty when he opened his first photography studio in New York City in 1844, Mathew Brady quickly earned acclaim for his superior portraits. His clientele grew to include prominent men and women from every quarter, and his collection of images of the famous was soon unsurpassed. Although daily studio operations remained the province of his camera operators and technicians, Brady provided the creative vision and marketing expertise that made him the best-known photographer in America by 1860. At the outset of the Civil War, he greatly expanded the scope of his business by launching an ambitious effort to document the conflict. By assembling and outfitting teams of photographers and securing permission for them to accompany Union forces into the field, Brady ensured that his cameras would be positioned to produce an extraordinary visual record of the war.