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Looking for Lincoln: UNC Asheville Professor Christopher Oakley (pictured here) and other scholars believe they discovered a rare image of Abraham Lincoln just before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. To view the image of Lincoln, visit: Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville.

UNCA professor in national spotlight for photographic discovery

The discovery of Abraham Lincoln in a rare photo at the scene of the Gettysburg Address has put local professor Christopher Oakley in the national spotlight as the 150th anniversary of the president's famed oratory approaches.

Smithsonian magazine, USA TODAY and the New York Times all featured the UNC Asheville assistant professor of new media’s discovery in recent articles.

Smithsonian asserts that Oakley’s discovery “looks to be the most significant, if not the most provocative Lincoln photographic find of the last 60 years.” There is some controversy, however, because just six years ago, USA TODAY featured front-page claims that a different man in the same photo is Lincoln. Oakley, an animation professional and self-described Lincoln nut, used a combination of historical records, other photos and portraits, high-tech media tools and software, computer science and physics to convince many leading Civil War photography scholars that his man is Lincoln.

Oakley’s discovery grew out of the “Virtual Lincoln Project,” a multi-year effort he has led with UNCA new-media students to produce a lifelike 3-D re-creation of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address. Efforts to correctly portray every detail of the cemetery setting and crowd of dignitaries led to close examination of the rare 1863 photos. Only six taken at the cemetery that day are known to exist.

It was his intimacy with Lincoln’s facial features that led Oakley to spot his bearded profile — quite fuzzy even when magnified many times — in one of the photos of the scene taken from a distance by Alexander Gardner. “I was looking at Seward [Lincoln’s Secretary of State] in the picture and I was not looking for Lincoln at all,” says Oakley. “As an animator, I’m trained to look at and study movement. And in the first of Alexander Gardner’s photos, I could see Seward from the side and I knew who was around him. And in the second Gardner photo, someone new had entered. My eye drifted to him, and it hit me. I jumped up saying ‘No way — it can’t be!’ I’ve been staring at Lincoln’s face for decades, and that night, he looked back.”

Oakley adds: “The next piece is to go back to the cemetery and go old school — to take everything we’ve learned with our new media technology, our science, and go test it with props and sets, the camera equipment of the time and see if we can recreate that moment and those photos,” he said. “That will tell us if we’re right or wrong.”

Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863.

Protesters accuse McHenry of flip-flopping on government shutdown

Rep. Patrick McHenry's vote to tie federal government operations to a bill that defunds the Affordable Care Act is catching heat from local activists.

About 35 supporters of the health care law, commonly known as "Obamacare," rallied Sept. 26 at the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Brandishing flip-flops, organizers accused McHenry of "toeing the tea party line on Friday [Sept. 20], voting to put the country at risk in his appeasement to zealots obsessed with sabotaging the Affordable Care Act."

The 10th District McHenry represents includes most of Asheville, and at an Aug. 7 town hall meeting in Swannanoa, the Republican legislator told attendees that he didn't think linking Obamacare to a government shutdown was "the best strategy." He added: "I want to defund Obamacare, I want to repeal the policy and put in better health care policy."

A subsequent video produced by Protect Your Care, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the health care law, lambasts McHenry for "flip-flopping" on the issue. It shows a town-hall attendee asking him: "Will you vote to shut down the government in order to defund the Affordable Care Act? Yes or No?" McHenry responds "No."

On Sept. 20, McHenry voted for a bill that will only fund government operations for the next fiscal year if all funding to implement Obamacare is eliminated. It passed the U.S. House that day by a 230-189 tally, mostly along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who represents the 11th District, which includes parts of Buncombe County, also voted in support of the measure.

Asked by Xpress if he'd like to respond to the local protestors, McHenry emailed this statement: "In August I said I would not vote to shut down the federal government, and my vote Friday is consistent with that. A bipartisan majority in the House passed legislation to keep the federal government open. It is now the responsibility of the Senate to pass this bill to avert a government shutdown and ensure all federal agencies and services remain open for the American people."


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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