War Faces

Over Memorial Day weekend recently, I stopped by the Close Assault WWII reenactment at Camp Mabry in Austin.  The reenactment portrayed a battle with Nazi Germany, taking place in 1944.  A reenactment is not a glorification of war, but rather a living history lesson.  The reenactors did a great service to the community by sharing military history.  These individuals make great personal and financial sacrifices to present an accurate visual representation of the battle conditions our soldiers faced during WWII.

I've attended and photographed this event before.  This year I decided to take a little different approach in my photography.  Last year, my primary goal was to get battle pictures.  This time around, I chose to focus more on the individuals in their character roles.  I tried to keep the shots candid and unposed.  When you point a camera at someone, assuming he or she doesn't mind being photographed, you always run the risk of a deliberate pose.  That is not what I wanted.  These reenactors were out there to perform a role and it was within the context of that role that I wanted to capture them.  In their minds, for the purpose of this exhibition. they were back in 1944 and I wanted the camera to reflect that.

I made one more change from last year.  After a bit of research, I found some period photos in color.  Kodachrome color film was around during the war, although it wasn't used much because it was a slow film at ASA 8 or 10.   There is a certain connection I feel that is made through color photographs of the period, like looking through the window of time.  I decided to process my character stills in color, as close to the Kodachrome look as I could get.  I used a Lightroom preset provided by X-Equals and I made some adjustments.  I mainly wanted the color and tone and I decided to not attempt to replicate film grain or print age.  I am not a film expert but I did look at some samples from the period and I believe this is a reasonably close representation, with modern clarity.

Without further ado, let me share some of images of the men of G Company, part of the Living History Detachment of the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.  One of the things that struck me about these guys is how seriously they take their roles.  There was a look of concentration on their faces as they prepared for their performance.  Their weapons shoot blanks only but there are still dangers on the mock battlefield, not the least of which is a Sherman tank roaring across the field!  These guys must stay focused to be in the right place at the right time for their safety.  They also have a responsibility to make sure their audience is safe during the reenactment.

Putting on a demonstration like this is a lot of work.  These guys sacrifice their time and financial resources to put on these reenactments.  I heard that they spend over $600 in blank ammunition alone for each performance!  Many hundreds more is spent on everything from uniforms to vehicle maintenance.  The money comes from donations and their own pockets.  Despite the time, effort, and cost, one thing was clear to me.  These guys love what they do.

It wouldn't be a war reenactment without an army for our guys to battle.  That is where the 167th Volksgrenadier Division comes in.  This group is a living history and reenactment group that plays the role of Germany in WWII.  They wear the full uniforms and insignias of Nazi soldiers.  Please understand that this is a historical group, not a hate group.  They play an important and commendable role in the demonstration of historical events.

I hope you enjoy these shots as much as I enjoyed capturing and processing them.  There are many more shots from this event on my web site, including black and white renditions of these shots, as well as battle scenes.  Thanks to all those who give so generously of their time and money to make these living history events possible.  I encourage everyone to attend these regular events and support these reenactment groups and theTexas Military Forces Museum.

This was Memorial Day weekend, which was first and foremost a time to remember those who gave their all in service to our country.  To the brave who gave their lives that we may continue to live free, thank you.  You are not forgotten.