Still-Lives, a series by photographer Eliot Dudik (b. 1983, USA) features portraits of weekend actors devoted to the re-enactments of the American Civil War. “I have learned that the motivations compelling re-enactors are incalculably complex, but generally address themselves to the preservation of history and appropriate honor for the fallen”, explains the photographer. He was struck when one of these actors said to him, “I don’t die anymore”, after so many years of performing. The idea of controlling one’s death, choosing when and how to perform it, was for Dudik a remarkable aspect about the relation to historical representation. The portraits show close-ups of actors of all ages laying on the grass, some of them with their eyes closed or with fake blood stains, others looking either straight at the camera or languidly, as if it were their last gaze to the world. On one hand their costumes give the viewer a sense of theatre-play and of game, yet the outcome is a lifelike representation of something we are used to see through historical imagery or film.
Dudik takes this performance out of the circuit of actors and brings its dramatic effect to a broader audience, giving it for a moment the impression of witnessing history.