Photographers' Blog

Reliving the past

Colchester, Britain

By Luke MacGregor

How does one illustrate the centenary of a war that changed global history?

There is no way to truly relive or re-experience what people went through a whole century ago. The only thing I could think of was to try and draw a revealing comparison between people’s lives then and now.

Custom silicone technician Corin Watts  as Lance Corporal Corin Watts of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps with the Rifles Living History Society participates in a rifle drill whilst recreating life as a First World War soldier at the Colchester Military Tournament in Colchester, eastern England  July 6, 2014. Corin became interested in World War One when as a child on the bus he would pass the statue of 'the driver' on the Royal Artillery Monument by Charles Sergeant Jagger, because of its size and its imposing nature it used to scare him, but provoked him to ask questions about the Great War and to learn more. He started re-enacting for that reason too. Of his fellow re-enactors he says "I like the people, its an odd community re-enactment, they are the most bizarre but at the same time most grounded and down to earth people you'd ever meet".   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor  (BRITAIN)

Custom silicone technician Corin Watts works on a prosthetic partial hand he is making at the London Prosthetic Centre in Kingston -Upon-Thames southwest London August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

I contacted a group of historical re-enactors who recreate the lives of soldiers in the Great War and attended some museum open days with them, watching as they publicly demonstrated various drills and period artifacts. But I wanted to go further than just seeing their uniforms. I wanted to show an interesting similarity between these men and the soldiers from 100 years before.

The men who served in World War One came from a vast variety of backgrounds; from bakers to bankers, salesmen to solicitors. Many of those who joined up were just school leavers. If they were fit enough and not too old, then they were sent to the front line.

Carpenter Richard Helad of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment Living History Group participates in a mock battle illustrating the First World War at the Colchester Military Tournament in Colchester, eastern England July 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Carpenter Richard Helad adjusts a door in a new apartment constructed by Berkeley Homes construction firm in Hackney northeast London July 22, 2014.  Richard's love of history developed whilst growing up with an archeologist father who ran an archeological dig at Winchester in southern England.  His interest in re-enacting was sparked when visiting a "War and Peace" show with his son, while there he bought a cap and pair of trousers, he continued buying the uniform and equipment and became more and more involved in the group.  He feels it is important to keep the memory alive of those who died and to educate people about how the war changed the social history of the country including securing the vote for women and opening up opportunities for them in the workplace.

I wanted to try to convey the huge range of men who served by photographing the historical re-enactors not only in uniform but also as they did their day jobs, which were also very varied.

As I went about my task, I was welcomed into the ranks of the historical, and now non-existent, regiments of “The King’s Royal Rifle Corps” and “The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)” as well as the lives of their officers and men.

On the gruesome battlefield of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By Gary Cameron

The 150th anniversary and reenactment of the U.S. Civil War battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a story suggested months ago by Reuters Pictures Editor Mike Fiala. Lasting three days, it would include thousands of re-enactors dressed in blue & gray wool uniforms who would live in historically accurate camps with canvas tents, and include 400 horses for cavalry units, with over 200 cannons from both sides to effectively blast each other off the battlefield. Add thousands of rifles and side arms to the mix (all weaponry fires black powder but no shells or bullets in re-enactments), and you have the makings of one very loud display of history, carnage and destruction.

What I did not know is that NO re-enactment battles of Gettysburg would be played out on the actual “hallowed” ground of the 1863 conflict. Two separate re-enactment groups would have their own events, each with versions of the July 1, 2, and 3 battle days, on large nearby farms. Stadium seating similar to those used at professional golf tournaments would accommodate 10,000 fans and border the battlefields.

All of this would follow immediately after President Obama’s trip to Africa that fellow staff photographer Jason Reed and I were assigned to. While looking forward to the Gettysburg assignment, Africa (three countries in seven days with numerous events and time zones) would have to come first. And the temperatures experienced in Africa would break me in for the sweltering heat and humidity of 12 hour days in Pennsylvania. Not quite….