THE historical roots of photo-journalism are explored in a new BBC Scotland documentary about a Paisley-born photographer who covered the American Civil War.
‘The Scot Who Shot the American Civil War’ tells the story of Alexander Gardner, who was born in Paisley in 1821 and emigrated to the US in 1856, to later become the official photographer of the Yankee army.
Gardner’s first major assignment was the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862 – known as America’s ‘bloodiest day’.
The documentary is being transmitted this evening, on BBC Two Scotland at 2100.
It’s an in-house production, from BBC Scotland in Aberdeen. Here, the programme’s executive producer, Neil McDonald, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the production?
Ewan Angus, commissioning editor, BBC Scotland.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’?
The programme draws heavily on the superb archive of Gardner’s own photographs, many of which are held by the world-famous Smithsonian Institution in the US.
Many of the imagines were stereoscopic – two images shown simultaneously and designed to be viewed through a special viewer which gives a 3D effect.
Producing a 3D-effect on a 2D-television screen was a challenge but a special graphic technique created for the programme gives a reasonable idea of the effect.
The programme also sees the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer, David Hume Kennerly, return to the scene of many of Gardner’s iconic images.
Who are the key personnel?
The documentary was directed by Andy Twaddle, who is based at BBC Scotland’s Aberdeen office. Andy has produced several history documentaries including ‘Rory Bremner and the Fighting Scots’ and ‘Castle Commando’. The editor was Tony Dickinson.
What have been the main production challenges?
It was a complex foreign shoot on a tight budget.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
Few people have heard of Gardner but he deserves to be far more widely known. In many ways he was the father of modern photo-journalism and left an incredible record of the devastating effect of modern warfare – quite an achievement for a silversmith from Paisley.