In 2011 Michael Falco began documenting the historic sites and recreated events of the American Civil War. Using a pinhole camera, Falco has followed in the steps of contemporary reenactors who keep the memory of this turning point in American history alive. As he writes:
“The impressions of these reenactors—so many descended from the very soldiers whose uniforms they wear—brought a dimension of verisimilitude and narrative drive to the project and, through the poetic prism of the pinhole, emerged not as play acting or costume drama, but as ghostly evocations of the spirits that hang over these fields.
“The images were created with large-format pinhole cameras— handmade wooden boxes with no lens, no viewfinder, and no shutter—that would have seemed primitive even at the time of the Civil War, but that, in uncanny ways, seems the perfect device for this project.
“The camera’s tiny, fixed aperture creates a soft, infinite focal plane—a canvas where details are obscured. The minuscule amount of light entering the camera requires a long exposure time that pushes the images into the ambiguous terrain between landscape and dreamscape. Wind blows, leaves rustle, clouds move, the earth turns.
“The pinhole camera lingers on these battlefields slowly drawing in the light. The images breathe with space and time.”
Echoes of the Civil War comprises forty images from Falco’s six-year journey across the historic fields of battle described by historian Shelby Foote as a moment in American history that, even more than the American Revolution, defined and continues to define our country today.
The Civil War Pinhole Project was exhibited at the Staten Island Museum in New York, in 2015. It has been recognized by the Library of Congress and is now part of the permanent collection of the National Archive on the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton, will publish Echoes of the Civil War, a monograph on The Civil War Pinhole Project in the autumn of 2016.