“Elson's formal wet plate portraits are hard to differentiate from those made by Mathew Brady’s studio more than 150 years ago, and his candid 35mm work gives us an idea of what Brady and his photographers might have been able to achieve during the heat of the battle had the smaller format been available to them...”
For my my documentary photography book, "Battlefields of Honor: American Civil War Reenactors," published by Merrell Publishers, I photographed reenactments in California, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Missouri. I also photographed American Civil War reenactments in England where English, French, Swedish, Italian, Irish, Scottish, German and Americans on holiday, recreate battles such as Gettysburg and Shiloh. I worked in 35mm black and white and color film, along with the wet plate collodion photography process, the same 19th century process used by Civil War photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O' Sullivan. Portraits along with action photographs are featured. While the Civil War stills stirs emotions, I found the reenacting community to be warm, friendly and dedicated to honoring history.
James Lighthizer, President Emeritus of the American Battlefield Trust, has written the foreword. The trust is involved with preserving Civil War battlefields and history. I would particularly like to thank the late Neil Salkind at the Salkind Literary Agency for his guidance and belief in the project. I’d also like to point out that my wife, Jeannine Stein, wrote the text.
"Mark Elson provides astonishingly authentic-looking photos of reenactments and reenactors. Often, he employs cameras which were specially built and uses period lenses to create wet plate photographs, which is the way authentic Civil War-era photographs were made. The result is a sometimes ghostly appearance that seems to fit the spirit of the reenactments, recalling the appearance of those who have passed into the shadows of time..." Rhetta Akamatsu in Blogcritics.org/ Seattle PI
"The photography is simply stunning. There are wet plate photographs that look like they came from another time; full color photos that show the gorgeous textures of the fabrics and details to the costumes; and black and white or sepia toned photos and show so much emotion in a face. I spent a couple of weeks just poring over the photos and often found myself swept away by the power of them. This book is more than just photo-essays, it is a trip back into time and an incredible view of history..." Gina Ruiz in AmoXalli
“Digs deep to reach out to the thousands of Americans who become—if only for a weekend—battle-weary soldiers, courageous generals, dedicated nurses, or even eager newspaper reporters…” Publishers Weekly
"Captures the drama and pagantry of restaging battles..." Huffington Post - A slide show is featured with this review.
To hear an National Public Radio interview visit: Off-Ramp hosted by John Rabe - A slide show is featured with this interview.
Union Civil War reenactors hold the line at the 150th anniversary of the First Manassas/Bull Run reenactment in Virignia.
Confederate Civil War reenactors at South Mountain, Maryland show company strength following a battle. Wet plate photograph.
Confederate Civil War reenactors, at the 150th anniversary of the First Manassas/Bull Run reenactment in Virignia, steadily advance under fire.
A CIvil War reenactor portraying a Union captain with his sergeant and two privates pose in front of the headquarters of Union General Meade at Gettysburg Military Park in Pennsylvania. Wet plate photograph.
Women at a Civil War reenactment in California portray members of the United States Sanitary Commission, who provided care for the sick and injured during the war. The group was a forerunner of the American Red Cross.
Southern women, wearing utilitarian work clothes and aprons, provide food for soldiers at a reenactment of the Civil War battle of McDowell, Virginia on the real McDowell Battlefield in Virginia.
A young African-American man portraying a Union soldier stands guard at a Civil War reenactment in Acton, California. In 1863 African-Americans were allowed to form their own segregated regiments commanded by white officers. Wet plate photograph
A Civil War reenactor's impression of a bugler with a Union militia unit stands with his instrument tucked under his arm at the 150th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Wilsons Creek in Missouri.
A wet plate photograph taken in California shows reenactor Bridger Zadina as a Union private.
At a Civil War reenactment at the McDowell Battlefield in Virginia, a reenactor portrays Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson down to the last detail, even holding a lemon, something Jackson was known to eat during battles. His horse also resembles Jacksons horse Little Sorrell.
Civil War reenactors in a Confederate battle line moves in a snake-like formation toward Union reenactors at the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in Virginia.
Confederate Civil War reenactors in Virginia portray seasoned veterens from 1864.
Wearing an outfit she made herself, Civil War reenactor Maegen Hensley poses in front of the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Los Angeles, California. Hensley is a member of the Historical Citizens Association, a nonprofit Southern California reenacting group that seeks to educate the public about American history. Wet-plate photograph.
A journalist interviews a Union corporal at a Civil War reenactment in South Mountain, Maryland. Wet plate photograph.
Susan Ogle, director of the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California, takes part in Civil War reenactments to raise awareness of Civil War preservation. Wet plate photograph
During the Civil War bands like this one, at a reenactment in Virginia, were often used to raise soldiers morale as they went into battle. The musicians also performed at ceremonies and concerts.
During the Civil War sutlers provided food and other necessities so soldiers could augment their meager allowances. At a Civil War reenactment in the mountains in Southern California, where Camp Tyler, Texas, 1862 was recreated, a sutler sells canned fruits, lemonade and cigars. Instead of cash, soliders used stamps as payment. Wet plate photograph.
At an American Civil War reenactment in England Paula Mountain Agar, left, portrays a male Union soldier and fights alongside her husband, Gregory Agar during a reenactment at Stanford Hall in Leicester.
Confederate Civil War reenactors attempt to hold off Union soldiers breaching the trenches at the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia during a trench warfare scenario.
Andrew Bowman, right, portrays Andrew Jackson Smith in Hartford City, Indiana. Smith, a color sergeant and Medal of Honor winner, was Bowmans grandfather. Khabir Shareef, center, takes on the role of Martin Delaney, the first African-American field officer in the Union Army. At left is Sam Meadows, portraying a drummer.
Wearing a mourning outfit complete with veil, a woman pays tribute to fallen soldiers at a Veterans Day memorial in San Gabriel, California. Wet plate photograph
Studio A516 - Western Avenue Studios, 122 Western Ave.,