The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is a group devoted to recreating the arts and activities of the Middle Ages in the present. One of their activities is to create large-scale mock wars, in which they wear period armor and engage in physically rigorous combat. Not content to stage polite mock battles, they meet by the thousands on vast fields, wearing full body armor and forcefully striking one another with rattan swords.
From 2003 to 2005, I photographed and interviewed heavy weapons fighters from the SCA on location at the sites where they reenact various battle scenarios. I present them to you here under their SCA names and personas.
To create these images, I used a large-format 8 x 10 camera and then made custom platinum prints from the original negatives. I chose antique photographic equipment and an archival printing method to achieve a look that would be impossible to create using a modern, point-and-shoot camera: the antique lenses have defects that make the images unique, and the platinum prints evoke a certain timelessness with their exceptional detail and rich, expanded tonal scale.
Like my subjects, many of whom make their battle armor by hand over hundreds of hours, I am using an antiquated creative process as an alternative to the high-speed consumption and production of the present. Both my photographic process and my subjects’ activities are anachronistic, all of us looking to the past for something missing from the present.
Warriors are icons for an idealistic code of behavior that we can recall with affectionate myopia—their faults forgotten, virtues exaggerated. Fascinated by their power, ethics, and formidable attire, these present-day suburban knights are trying to emulate them; my work is to try to understand their quixotic tendencies and to capture some of that mystique.