Recreating Custer: Capturing the Iconic General - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Recreating Custer: Capturing the Iconic General

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On what would be General Custer's 174th birthday two men are chasing the past in recreating an iconic photo of the general. 

Photographer Shane Balkowitsch is using a process of photography used to take that photo is called wet plate. The glass plates coated in chemicals and then silver nitrate is exposed to light to reveal the image. The result is are image carved into silver on a glass plate. 

"Digital images are nothing more than ones and zeros in a file somewhere," says photographer, Steve Balkowitsch. "They have no value. This is a piece of glass that I cut by hand and it's silver that's not going anywhere. So, 800 years from now if you don't break that wet plate I gave you it'll still be here. So, that's what makes it special there is no archiving nothing necessary that you have to do  to make sure that image is here 300 years from now." 

After three plates Shane said he was happy with the results.

"I didn't think we would get as close as we did today but he more you look at it and I've been looking at it for about a month now the more you look at the more details you catch and you just make mental notes," says Balkowitsch. "So it's not going to be exact, perfectly exactly like Mr. Brady's photograph but it's going to be very similar." 

Yet Steve Alexander, who has been attempting to recreate the photo for years, seems to still be searching for the right snapshot.

"I guess to a certain degree I'm pretty happy how it came out but like any actor or anybody that's in any kind of profession that they strive to be perfect it's like we need to do one more Shane and cause I know the next one I'm going to get it right," says Anderson. 

Steve lives and speaks as Custer, and taking this photo in the same style that it was shot in by Matthew Brady over one hundred years ago is now another experience he shares with the General. 

"It's a fabulous trip that I'm taking, keeping alive a part of our heritage, keeping the spirit of America alive and in my way to contribute towards this country to do something positive," says Anderson. "Because everyone wants to tear down what we could do but I can say look where we came from, look who we were and what we are today." 

Shane Balkowitsch is based in Bismarck, and he is the only photographer to practice wet photography in the state of North Dakota. World wide, there are about one thousand photographers who use this technique. 



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