Photographing the Emancipation Proclamation

For the 150-year anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Smithsonian magazine recreated the historic tableau, reuniting an early draft with Lincoln's inkwell and pen for the first time since the 1860s. This short video produced by Jeff Campagna, Brendan McCabe and Ryan R. Reed goes behind the scenes of the photo shoot, capturing the three artifacts brought together from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

"It's technically a little difficult," photographer Robert Clark explains, "because you've got a white paper and the thin little writing and then you have this kind of dark brass object." The goal was to capture the objects from Lincoln's perspective. "The inkwell is beautiful and ornate and the pen is really nice but it's the words that resonate," Clark reflects. "To see the words 'forever to be free' -- that resonates." 

Smithsonian tells the story of the document's evolution in "How the Emancipation Proclamation Came to Be Signed:"

When the moment arrived for signing the Proclamation -- on January 1, 1863 -- Lincoln’s schedule had already been crowded. His New Year’s reception had begun at 11 a.m. For three hours, the president greeted officers, diplomats, politicians and the public. Only then did he return to his study. But as he reached for his steel pen, his hand trembled. Almost imperceptibly, Lincoln hesitated. “Three hours of hand-shaking is not calculated to improve a man’s chirography,” he said later that evening. He certainly did not want anyone to think that his signature might appear tremulous because he harbored uncertainty about his action. Lincoln calmed himself, signed his name with a steady hand, looked up, and said, “That will do.” Slaves in Confederate areas not under Union military control were decreed to be “forever free.” 

You can read the rest here and browse interactive, annotated images of the pages of the Proclamation here

For more videos from Smithsonian, visit http://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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