THE PETERSBURG PHOTOGRAPHS
O'Sullivan and his Assistant "Vest Man"
Timothy O'Sullivan and his assistant worked as a team while in the field. The evidence is in their photographs. One of them sometimes posed in a scene, while the other operated the camera; they then exchanged places and exposed another image. Thus, they left a personal stamp on the photographic plates.
This was not the only time that O'Sullivan and his assistant changed places and, one must assume, roles behind the camera. The stereograph below, captioned "Petersburg, Virginia, Confederate [Fort McGilvery]" offers another example.
Timothy O'Sullivan appears in a number of his Petersburg photographs, some of which are not attributed to him.
O'Sullivan's assistant, "Vest Man," shows up in a great many of the Petersburg images. If Vest Man is in the image, O'Sullivan was behind the camera. Many of these photographs are not yet attributed to O'Sullivan.
In several cases, O’Sullivan and “Vest Man” exchanged places in front of the camera. They often placed themselves strategically in the camera's eye, a trick picked up from the master Mathew Brady. We will encounter Vest Man on a regular basis. We have looked through the records for his identity -- most promising were lists of passes issued by the Provost Marshall for the Army of the Potomac. Nothing definitive so far. Any leads would be welcomed.