Photographs from Jim Naughten's series, Re-enactors, were acquired by the Imperial War Museum's (London) permanent collection several years ago. They're now being shown in the museum's Manchester venue, as part of an exhibition entitled, Contemporary Art and War.
In this body of work, Naughten has photographed some of the thousands of people, who step out of their daily lives to transform into historical characters from the First and Second World Wars and re-enact battles and drills. Naughten has investigated the phenomena of re-enactment culture with a formal photographic rigor, that contributes to the role of photography in reinventing history.
Civilian with Black Fox Fur, 2008 © Jim Naughten
The striking detail of each image draws attention to the exactness of the costumes being worn, and to the expressions of the subjects. Titled only with reference to nationality, unit and rank—nothing of the real lives of the individuals is revealed. The viewer is compelled to look and to wonder about who chooses to play a WWI Gunner, a US Medic, a civilian or an SS Ofﬁcer?
Inspired by Richard Avedon’s In The American West, Naughten has stripped away the context of the participants, heightening the sense of artiﬁce, and through photographic technique, sublimated his subjects. These ﬂawless photograph—that include tanks and battle scenes—chromatically echo photographs of the past, yet are undoubtedly contemporary.
Information about the exhibition can be found HERE.
The Re-enactors series can be viewed on the gallery website HERE.