“Reenactors.” A photo essay by Chad Hunt.
Investigating the modern individual’s connection to warfare, an acclaimed photojournalist turns his camera on American reenactors of two watershed wars: the American Revolution and World War I.
“The uniforms have changed, but we are still confronting the realities of war and what it means to place yourself within it.”
As we struggle to find our place in the modern world, we sometimes find it easier to start by finding a place in the past.
History is made up of moments in which geography and other circumstances threw normal people into situations that we would never have to consider in 2019. During the Revolutionary War, for example, a newly recruited Patriot had to pick up a musket to fight the Red Coats because they were marching across his family’s farm. On the other side of the fence, a British soldier may have faced execution if he didn’t take aim at the rebels from the Colonies.
We stand in the modern world and wonder what we would have done: Would I have been so brave? Would I have fought? If I were alive during WWI, would I have gone to the front lines as a nurse or marched in the street against the Kaiser?
In today’s world of constant conflict, we sadly find ourselves asking similar questions in the now. The uniforms have changed, but we are still confronting the realities of war and what it means to place yourself within it.
For some reenactors, putting on a uniform already steeped in history is a way to reflect on a life they’ve already lived. The WWI U.S. infantry reenactor can wrap himself in wool and carry a bolt-action rifle that seems quaint compared to the modern M-4 that he carried in Iraq. Perhaps holding a bugle and standing at attention will be easy compared to the boot camp he faces next year, after graduating from high school.
All of these people are searching for answers, role-playing in order to understand not only who we have been as a nation, but also who we are as Americans today.
—Chad Hunt, February 2019
Chad Hunt is a frequent contributor who took the photographs of insects on the cover and scattered through our online pages. He also contributed a photo essay on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and at home to our first issue, “Dangerous Territory.” His “Images of the Secret Self,” a collection of portraits made of trick-or-treaters, is a popular feature on our website.
Chad’s photographs have appeared in Time, Popular Mechanics, and The New York Times. His Afghanistan photographs received a Military Reporters and Editors Award and are in the permanent collection of the George Eastman House Museum. He lives in a small town in New Jersey.
Find Chad’s photojournalism and contact information on his website.