Born of ill-informed misconceptions about the motives behind reenactments of the American Civil War during the 150th anniversary, my interest developed in the mentality of the weekend actors who caravan a web of routes to re-perform the actions of war on surrogate battlefields. My initial contact with a re-enactor involved driving through woods on a golf cart, while the driver wept and recounted the stories of all his ancestors killed or wounded in conflicts dating to the Civil War. I have since learned that the motivations compelling re-enactors are incalculably complex, but generally address themselves to the preservation of history and appropriate honor for the fallen.
My deeper curiosity and exploration began after hearing a re-enactor say “I don’t die anymore.” I learned that he invoked this privilege on the strength of his years of service in the community. But the idea of controlling one’s death, choosing when and where to perform and re-perform one’s demise, says something powerful about our relation to historical representation—about our need for it, and about its conditions and limitations. These portraits provide a sense of the diversity of actors existing in this community, many of whom devote their lives to this performance, and strive to immortalize them in a fabricated state of tranquility as they hover above the ground they fight for.