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Taken 20-Aug-15
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Date modified20-Aug-15 15:48
Matthew Brady  - NPG_88_11 SL

Matthew Brady - NPG_88_11 SL

"Brady and the Cooper Union made me president." - Abraham Lincoln

Matthew Brady didn't just take photographs. He became "the Prince of Photographers" by "...posing his subjects to capture something of their soul with the camera." Brian Pohanka

"When Brady assessed a subject, he looked for the angle that flattered the person most. He noticed physical defects that he could correct. In the case of freckles, he would rub the area until it reddened so the camera would not record them. If a person had sunken checks, Brady would put cotton in the cheeks to make them fuller and healthier looking. If a subject had protruding ears, Brady used a waxy substance to make them stick to the head. He became an excellent technician at posing his subjects, and this was the basis behind the success of his daguerreotypes - they conveyed something of the character of his subjects." Warren Motts

On February 27, 1860, Matthew Brady had the opportunity to influence history. Abraham Lincoln had traveled to New York City to give a speech at the Cooper Union. Lincoln took the opportunity to have his photograph taken by Brady.

The photographer decided to pose Lincoln standing, with one hand on a book and the other at his side. Dissatisfied with the stance, he asked Lincoln if he could "arrange" his collar. Lincoln smiled, realizing the effect Brady was trying to create, and said, "Ah, I see you want to shorten my neck". Brady replied, "That's just it, Mr. Lincoln."

The speech was an overnight sensation. Newspapers clamored for photographs of Lincoln. The only recent photograph was taken by Brady, showing "Honest Abe" not as a country bumpkin but serious, poised and dignified. Lincoln received the Republican nomination twelve weeks later.