Everyone's seen his photos-of a confidently cross-armed Whitman, a beardless Lincoln, Civil War dead on the battlefield-but few kw much about Mathew Brody, the man behind the camera. In this detailed biography, Wilson (editor of The American Scholar) examines Brady's rise and fall as the principal photographer of 19th-century America, a master of promotion and seminal documentarian of the Civil War. With a keen understanding of photography's potential as an art form and medium for news, Brady catapulted himself before the public eye by shooting numerous famous personages-indeed, through this extensive network of movers and shakers, a portrait develops of a rapidly changing nation. Wilson does a grand job of bringing Brady's era to life-rich descriptions of New York City (the location of Brady's studio) and Washington, D.C., ground the book in a strong sense of place, and the author's contextualization of numerous historic photographs adds depth to Brady's magnificent work. Those with an interest in photography and the Civil War (and especially fans of Timothy Egan's Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher) will savor this telling glimpse into the America first captured on film, and the man who made it happen.