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Book gives fresh view of Antietam battlefield

June 10, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Battle of Antietam was 142 years ago, but a new book offers a fresh look at where the battle happened.

Halli Casser-Jayne, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said she hopes her book, "Still Life Images of Antietam," will bridge the gap between history and art.

"The book is very 'now,'" Casser-Jayne said Thursday as she sat behind neat stacks of the book at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau's visitors center on North Potomac Street, signing copies for the book's premiere.

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The book is a collection of 70 photos taken by Casser-Jayne of the battlefield and nearby locales. Some photos feature re-enactors; others are true still-life photos of places or objects.

"This is really a much-more contemporary project" than other photo volumes of the battlefield, she said, noting it took her five years to compile the artwork.

Casser-Jayne, who declined to reveal her age, said she grew up in New Jersey, learning photography from her father and in school. In the early 1980s, she acted for television, but she has been living near Shepherdstown for about 20 years, she said.

The book, which also includes Civil War-era quotes, features only black-and-white photos.

Casser-Jayne said that she doesn't understand violence - "I don't understand to be angry, to be just yards away from each other, and shoot" - but she wanted to "capture the heart of (the battlefield) better, which is another reason why I used black-and-white, because when you take the color out of things, you get to the soul."

Thomas Clemens, a history professor at Hagerstown Community College and noted Civil War historian, attended the premiere.

As he peered at one page that showed a photo of the inside of the Dunker Church, he said the photos bring to life the sights on and near the battlefield.

"What better way to understand the bareness and the plainness of the Dunkers," Clemens said.

Eli Pollard, the gallery director for the Washington County Arts Council, said all the photos in Casser-Jayne's book are on display at the arts council's gallery at 41 S. Potomac St., and will be shown for at least another month.

"This area's very indebted to its history, and this is something to help us realize that," Pollard said.

The book, which sells for $32.95, is available at the visitors center at 6 N. Potomac St., the arts council show room, Borders Books and Music, Carol and Company, Books 'N Things, A Touch of Kountry and The Book Cellar.

Casser-Jayne pointed to a photo of the dug-out road known as "Bloody Lane." Her photo shows the site in a recent winter, blanketed with snow. Despite the name of the place, she said it was amazing how beautiful it could be.

"It's kind of strange about our world. Our world is a very odd place," Casser-Jayne said.

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