Photographing Historical Reenactment Events

Posted on by Kathie Fife

History is alive in the hills and mountains of New Hampshire during the annual living history events.

Below is a sample of images from photographing historical reenactments of wars and colonial living performed by reenactors. It is a much safer way to experience a part of history we only read about in books and see only through the eyes of brave photographers working in real battle zones. The reenactors are passionate about history and I discovered some role-play extremely well. (Click on the images below to view larger and see details).

Firing a canon during the demonstrations at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

Firing a canon during the demonstrations at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

It also comes with a challenge photographing it so it doesn’t look completely staged. Trying to be as authentic as possible, the reenactors are serious about what they do. They invest their own money in and wear period uniforms and carry equipment that is void of any modern day accoutrements, like plastic water bottles, sunglasses, and modern shoes. Certainly no one wants to be pointed out as coming across as farby, for that ruins the whole concept, and wearing a bruised ego during the weekend is just not fun.

The Encampment at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

The Encampment at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

The photos below have several elements that resonated with me; the cloud of gun smoke, the soldier wearing a key around his neck, and grasping a diary in this hand. The sojourn soldier with look on his face and the way he carried his tired body.

Soldier walks through gun smoke

A soldier holds his diary as he walks through a cloud of gun smoke after a fierce battle.

The scruffy, furrowed skin, and the look in the eyes of this soldier.

A soldier prepares for battle during the Hillsborough Living History Event reenactment of the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil Wars.

There are a few annual events in New Hampshire, like the Hillsborough Living History Event, and Muster in the Mountains at the base of the Mt Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, and the Civil War Encampment at Strawbery Banke Museum that give visitors an opportunity to walk through an encampment and see how people lived during the time periods.

Fire! At the Civil War Emcampment demonstration at Strawbery Banke Museum.

Fire! At the Civil War Encampment demonstration at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH.

It’s a great opportunity to experience our heritage and discover first hand how primitive resources were used to cook a meal over hot coals, and the skills needed to craft tools, and watch how metals are melted and molded to make firearms, knives, and lead bullets.

"Good Trade"

Two Mountain Men, dressed in authentic period clothing, discuss a “Good Trade”. The event includes real trades such as the knives on the blanket and other tools that are made exclusively without the use of modern technology. (My NHPPA award winning image,”Good Trade”)

The living historians are a wealth of knowledge and are always kind, willing, and open to answering questions from visitors.

Making a leather pouch using primitive tools at Muster in the Mountains.

Making a leather pouch using primitive tools at Muster in the Mountains.

Natural fibers like tanned leathers and spun wool are used to make clothing and tarps.

Fire Starter - Muster in the Mountains - 1 Kathie Fife Photography-2

Blowing on the fiber to get the fire started from when sparks generated by the two pieces of flint were hit together.

The reenactors demonstrate their crafts and share a part of history we can experience today, and appreciate what life was like during the colonial period.

Fire Starter - Muster in the Mountains - 1 Kathie Fife Photography-3

Sparks fly when the two pieces of stone are hit against each other.

Photos from the Muster in the Mountains event demonstrating how to start a fire using flint and natural materials.

Flint as a primitive tool used to start a fire.

Flint as a primitive tool used to start a fire.

It’s a great time of year to get out and enjoy events like these. Personally, I am most impressed with the folks who dedicate themselves to being as authentic as possible. Muster in the Mountains is one of the best festivals in the state, and it’s also located in one of the most beautiful places right in the heart of the White Mountains during foliage season.  What’s not to love about that?!

To find more information check out the New Hampshire State Visitor’s Guide, (you can also find my photograph of visitors enjoying a horse carriage ride around Hillsborough Center during the event).

To view more of the images from the Hillsborough Living History Event, and Muster in the Mountains visit my website.

A mountain woman living in the encampment during the Muster in the Mountains event relaxes by candlelight after chores.

A mountain woman living in the encampment during the Muster in the Mountains event relaxes by candlelight after a full day of chores.

Final Note: As I finished writing this blog post, I struggled with how this may come across as trivializing war. Although this was a fun way to experience and remember history, it’s not to be taken with a light heart. The historic events were very real. War is terrible. I will never be a war photographer. It takes a special kind of person, like photojournalist James Nachtwey, to go into an actual war zone and photograph real terror, pain, and horrible death.

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and people.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

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