The 2021 Reenactment of the Battle of Aiken

The atmosphere at the 2021 Reenactment of the Battle of Aiken can only be described as enthusiastic, with a dash of relief. For most of the reenactors, this was their first event in nearly a year. I watched in the early hours as units drilled, trying to once again find the form that used to be very natural to them. Veteran troops told me that they felt like they were back at some of their first events, looking for the rhythms and muscle memory of camp life that used to be second nature. Some traveled far greater distances than they usually do, simply to be able to participate in the hobby that they love.

The crowds seemed larger, too. Undoubtedly “virus fatigue”, along with the first sunny days that South Carolina had seen in weeks, played a role in pushing people out of their houses and into the fresh air of the event site. Of course, my focus was directed more toward the participants than the guests.

In the encampments around the Battle of Aiken

As I have mentioned in my previous posts from immersive living history events, I enjoy shooting around the camps as much as I enjoy shooting the battle. In fact, I think I enjoy it more. From a photography standpoint, it is about the junction of light, expression and story. While I have posted a large gallery of images from the event, these images, in particular, I think, illustrate that idea. Click to enlarge them.

These images are not posed. I very rarely ask a reenactor to do anything, other than to continue on with whatever it is that he or she was doing when I wandered up. I prefer natural expressions and candid poses. As a side note, by reviewing hundreds (ok, thousands) of images like these and studying the poses, posture, gestures, hand placement, and a dozen other details, my more traditional work as a portrait photographer improves. I believe that it enables me to help my clients find ways to stand or sit in front of the camera that feel less forced and look better on camera. When you book your portrait shoot with me, you can tell me whether or not you think my conclusion is correct.

2021 Battle of Aiken Reenactment

The highlight of the weekend, of course, is the reenactment of the various battles. The term “reenactment” isn’t really that precise of course, because the specific circumstances of a battle cannot be fully recreated. In the case of Aiken, for instance, the battle actually took place in town. Obviously, that’s no longer an option. But the reenactors can still present a demonstration of the tactics and weaponry of the period. What occurs on the battlefield is, in most ways, very real. Real weapons (albeit with blanks), real horses, real people, and real laws of physics mean that what they do requires a level of knowledge and caution.

It also means that very little is staged. And even when it is, it doesn’t always play out just like it was planned. For photographers then, shooting the battle is very different than shooting the rest of the event. Things happen quickly. What you are seeing will often be over before you have a chance to thoroughly analyze it. So we shoot quickly, we shoot purposefully, and we shoot a lot! Here are a few of my favorite images from the battlefield.

So which are your favorites? Or perhaps you found something in the full gallery that you prefer. Either way, let me know in the comments below.

All images are available for sale as prints. Licenses are also available. Contact me for details.

Images of the 2021 Reenactment of the Battle of Aiken, like all the images on this site, are copyrighted and owned by Robert Clay Photography. No images are to be removed, copied, borrowed, or otherwise taken from this site. Limited licenses are available (sometimes without charge). Any usage without express permission and appropriate license represents a breach of US copyright law.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Robert, the sepia photo with the two horses caught my eye first. Good work on your photos.

    1. Robert

      Thanks, Daniel. Color seemed irrelevant on that one, and the heavy vignette helped direct the eye in the middle of a pretty chaotic scene.

  2. Avatar

    I seen a few great ones! But would love to see all that was taken. We were there on the small mountain howitzer on the Confederate side at the very end. Would love to see those as well if you got some of those shots! Great photography as well! Keep up the great work sir!

    1. Robert

      I came home with over 2000 images. Nobody wants to see that many! Of course, a good number of those were a result of quick bursts around canon and gunshots. I’ll look and see what I can find from your unit.

      Thanks for your kind words.

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