Musician-turned writer's book based Civil War-era photos
Stephen Recker of Smithsburg says his book "Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them" is his first attempt to document, organize and interpret he historical photographs and photographers associated with the Maryland Campaign of 1862. (Submitted photo / January 11, 2013)
City in which you reside: Smithsburg
Day job: Web developer, High Rock Studios, Hagerstown
Book title: "Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them"
Genre: Historical nonfiction, Civil War
Synopsis of book: "Rare Images of Antietam" is the beginning of my attempt to document, organize and interpret, in a comprehensive fashion, the historical photographs and photographers associated with the Maryland Campaign of 1862, taken after Alexander Gardner & Co. left the battlefield at Antietam. The book includes many rare and unknown images of the battlefield.
Publisher: Another Software Miracle LLC
In the book's acknowledgments, you say your parents took you to see historic sights in New England. Tell me how that has influenced you?
Ever since I was a child, my idea of a good time has been to hang out at historic places, specifically Revolutionary War and Civil War sites on the East Coast. I spent the 1980s and '90s living in Los Angeles, working as a session guitarist and touring guitarist, and I would often visit the East Coast on tour. It tugged on my heart so strongly that I spent five years producing an interactive CD-ROM called "Virtual Gettysburg," which came out in 2002 (www.virtualgettysburg.com). "Virtual Gettysburg" was well-received and I was tired of living in LA, so I decided to move back east to work on "Virtual Antietam."
What first inspired you to publish a book on photos of Antietam battlefield? Had you always been interested in historical photography?
I have been fascinated by images of dead Civil War soldiers since I can remember. William Frassanito's "Early Photography at Gettysburg" (1995) got me hooked on finding old images and hunting down the precise locations where they were taken. I wanted "Virtual Gettysburg" to contain that feature, so the first thing I did when producing it was collect as many historic photographs of the Gettysburg battlefield as I could find, which is easy to do if you have some time and some money.
Antietam is a different story. The first five years I lived here I found very few rare images of Antietam, in any form, at any price. I even took to collecting rare postcards just to have something to research.
But my luck changed when bought the amazing historical photographs collected by the late Sharpsburg historian Wilmer Mumma. After that, the floodgates opened and I had a stunning run of luck. Each photograph I found was more obscure and more significant than the last. I concluded that these images were way too important to simply hide inside "Virtual Antietam," which I conceded would never be finished by the sesquicentennial of the battle. So I shifted gears and went headlong into writing this book.
Your name is similar to E.M. Recher, who you describe as the patriarch of the group of photographers called the Hagerstown Artists. Are you related? Why do you call him the patriarch of Hagerstown photographers in his time?
Although E.M. Recher often spelled his name Recker, my research shows that we are not related. It is strange, though, that only a few years ago I discovered that what I believe to be the earliest post-Gardner photograph taken on Antietam Battlefield bears the backmark: "Photographed by Recker." Stranger still, my desk at High Rock Studios sits right about where Recher's camera would have stood in his Civil War era photograph gallery.
Recher opened that gallery in the mid-1850s, and although there were other photographers in Hagerstown at the time, it was Recher who took some of the earliest battlefield images. He also trained B.W.T. Phreaner, Antietam's most prolific photographer, and was looked upon as Hagerstown's leading photographer, both artistically and technically, up until his death in 1887.
In "Rare Images of Antietam," you feature Recher and 10 other photographers who shot images at the battlefield. How did you find out about them?