JIM NAUGHTEN — Re-enactors
November 4 — December 18, 2010
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 phenomenon of re-enactment culture with a formal photographic rigour, that contributes to the role of photography in reinventing history. The portraits, themselves, are mostly three-quarter profile, from the legs up and with a stark, neutral backdrop. 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 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 digital prints — that include tanks and battle scenes — chromatically echo photographs of the past, yet are undoubtedly contemporary.
Jim Naughten (b. 1969) was awarded a painting scholarship to Lancing College and later studied photography at the Arts Institute of Bournemouth (both in the UK). Naughten’s work has been featured in a number of exhibitions and he is the recipient of several awards, including a commendation from The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. Re-enactors was published as a monograph in 2009 (Hotshoe Books) and several photographs from the series have recently been acquired by The Imperial War Museum (UK).