Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dabbling in the 20th Century

Stephen has taken up a new hobby. Actually he has taken up three new hobbies in the past year, but I’m only going to write about one today. Airsoft, for those of you who don’t know is like paintball, but instead of shooting your friends with brightly colored exploding paint sacks, you fire little air filled plastic BBs. I’ve been told that it is more realistic, and less hard on the clothes, I don’t know from direct experience because I’m not crazy about the concept of guns as toys. But this post is about Stephen’s hobby, and not mine.

It turns out, there is some overlap between airsoft and reenacting. This past weekend Stephen attended an airsoft game that was a reenactment of the battle of Bastogne (World War II.) To participate folks were required to have the correct uniforms and supplies, to camp on site one needed to have correct-looking camp gear. I hear it was not quite as authentic as a reenactment, But Stephen said there were plenty of great moments. What I do know, is that the planning for the weekend was a lot of fun.

Usually when Stephen and I take up a new period we have to do a ton of research in academic journals, out-of-print book resources, and museums. To research a time only 66 years in the past there were tons of primary resources: manuals, photographs, movies (made at the time!), and extant objects all over the place. Aside from the research, the era is popular enough to reenact that Stephen was able to purchase many of the items that he would need for the weekend. Clothing, patches, mess kit, even shoes were not too difficult to find. I will admit to more than a little jealousy that while I was hand sewing a 12th Century tunic based on scant archaeological evidence and a few illuminations, Stephen was sitting in the living room with his lap top and a credit card getting all his uniform pieces, sized tall so they would fit him.

One of the things that make any living history or reenactment venture is the details. At Reenactorfest this past February Stephen picked up a few reproduction papers and pamphlets: an ID card, a ration card, a booklet about trench foot and one about the dangers of venereal diseases. He then went and got a nice leather wallet to store his cards, and we made plans to take a photo for his ID card. But Stephen did not have any photos of his sweetheart in his wallet and I determined to do something about that.

I arranged for a photographer friend and I to get together on a Saturday. There was a museum exhibit we both wanted to see, and I requested a quick photo shoot in there as well; I made a 1940s swing dress last year, and had slowly been acquiring more 1940s pieces since then. On Saturday morning Rob and I found an adorable little diner, and the staff were tickled when I emerged from the bathroom with my hair all done up and my swing dress on, and Rob started snapping photos. At home I worked a little Photoshop magic, then slipped a few prints into Stephen’s WWII wallet while he was out one day. A few more details achieved.

The day before Stephen was to set out for his WWII adventure he put on all his gear and we raced around the house looking for a section of blank wall that he could stand in front of for his ID photo. We finally found the best lit stretch of wall was behind the bed in the bedroom, so we both knelt on the bed while I tried to get his head cocked just right for his photo. Then we went outside to take some documentation photos, and even played around with some more “in the field” types of settings. All the snow from our early March storm has melted, so we have bare ground, no grass growing yet. The rough ground and the pines made a pretty good backdrop and after printing off the little 2x2 inch photo for his ID I printed off two photos for myself, now I need a hand bag to go with my swing dress where I can store the photos of my honey off in the war.

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