Have You Seen These Men? – Photo Essay by Brendan Hunt

Editor Julia Alora, Photography, February 27th, 2020

"There was a shared desire to conjure atmosphere. We tangoed to a ritual of agreement."

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Photography by Brendan Hunt

From the Artist:

The men in these photographs are historical reenactors portraying soldiers of the US Army’s 100th Infantry Division. From November 17th, 1943 through January 18th, 1944, the division participated in stateside training during the Second Army’s “Tennessee Maneuvers”; a series of exercises throughout the state’s Cumberland Mountains in preparation for the massive expansion of the European Theater of Operations. Young and green, these recruits had little understanding of the grim reality that awaited them on the battlefields of western Europe.

What you are seeing is a reenactment of the Tennessee Maneuvers, although the modernity of the actual event exists beyond the frame. The camera and the factual don’t always harmonize; pan slightly to your left or right and you would leave the Second World War for a busy Pennsylvanian fairground. This conflict of fact and fiction is further emphasized by hobbyists who strive to create the most convincing illusion possible – a sort of smoke and mirrors matched by the discrimination of the camera.

Both the photographer and the reenactor exist in a frame of clear and focused attention. There is an obsession with what fits in the box and how, whether that box be the viewfinder or the imagination. An understanding is struck between the two in which deliberate decisions are made to create an organized world; an immense attention to one’s surroundings with a consideration that is rarely given in everyday life. I was interested in how the eternally debated “truthfulness” of photography could be challenged in a combined effort of authentic cameras and dedicated reenactors, both cohabiting a live-action diorama. There was a shared desire to conjure atmosphere. We tangoed to a ritual of agreement.

I used the camera to omit intrusive anachronisms and entered the space with the imagined role of a wartime correspondent, cutting away the present for the sake of 1943. Assistance was provided by a seemingly endless playground of period-correct paraphernalia. No details are overlooked in living history, whether they be the soles of boots or the contents of pockets. Ephemera like unfiltered Lucky Strikes, newspapers or shaving brushes: a sea of details all so effectively transporting that they could have fallen from the sky, a rubbing from a bygone time.

These photographs are about the tug-of-war of fact and fiction which exists between the photographer and the camera, the reenactor and reality, and the collaboration of creating fantasy through image. They were made with the intention of total immersion as I danced with these enthusiasts in our own world, for a weekend.

                            

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Brendan Hunt (b. 1994, Bronx) is an American photographer living and working in Asheville, North Carolina. He loves Star Wars, Italian food, vintage chic, and all things photographic.

Instagram: @brendanhunt.photo
Website: www.brendanhunt.com

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Julia Alora

Julia Alora is a transplanted Portland sculptoress inspired by biology and the natural world. Her works can be found lurking in the woods, guarding her studio, and in co-op art houses around the city.