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Portraits Capture Civil War Re-Enactors Feigning Death

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Matthew Grason, 7th South Carolina. Died 256 Times.

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John Wingo, 88th New York. Died 23 Times.

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, a notable and significant battle in the American Civil War. Some 10,000 individuals participated in the official Gettysburg Battle Re-enactment, the annual event where men and women dress up as opposing sides to recreate the fateful day. Re-enactment is a strangely prolific hobby, the many participants taking their role quite seriously as they pretend to be soldiers in horrific battles from long ago. Photographer Eliot Dudik captures these volunteer actors as they lie sprawled out upon the battlefield, feigning death to honor the dead in Still Lives.

Intrigued by everyday people who would caravan across the country to “play war”, Dudik shot at several different re-enactments, standing over top the slain to take surreal portraits of each character. Acknowledging the motivations of re-enactors are “incalculably convoluted”, Dudik was interested in the idea of determining your own fate in battle, many re-enactors dying multiple times in one conflict. The curious psychological implications in choosing the moment of your death – pretend or otherwise – adds another layer to a somewhat a bizarre experience. Still Lives examines the strange ways people attempt to connect with the past, playing dead to immortalize a history re-imagined.

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David Paul Davenport, 2nd United States Battery D. Died 177 times.

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Ian Dillinger, 16th South Carolina. Died 45 times (has died twice in one battle).

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James Funk, 13th Virginia Infantry, Company H. Died 116 times.

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Charles Kreger, 2nd Maryland Company A. Died 22 times.

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Ed “Doc” Keith, 54th Massachusetts, 4th New Hampshire. Died 148 times.

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Chris W. Johnson, 1st South Carolina Sharpshooters. Died 6 times.

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Berlin Owen, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers. Died 425 Times.

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Randon Thomas, 4th New Hampshire. Died 432 times.

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Sarah Berry, 10th Confederate Calvary. Died 1 time.

All images © Eliot Dudik

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