I’ve always been interested in photographing people doing what they love, especially when what they love is slightly out of the ordinary. Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed watching and learning about the ways in which people connect to their histories and families. My interest in the strong and deep-rooted connections that relate southerners to their cultural and family heritage has led me to the world of reenactors and to living history enthusiasts of many types.
This portrait project, which I still consider to be in the early stages, examines a number of elements and questions. The social, cultural, political, theatrical, historical, and aesthetic aspects found in the reenacting/living history world are a few of the themes I am dealing with in this work. As I grow increasingly involved in knowing these enthusiasts, the more I understand the complexity and diversity of these issues across their many and varied communities. I find the inspiration to continue exploring this imagery in the details and subtle differences between the people—what they do, what they create, and what they have to express.
One of my favorite topics in this body of work (and others) is the relationship and clash between history and the present. I wanted to include contemporary elements in the portraits to illustrate the difficult challenge of separating the two worlds. These individuals have varying levels of commitment to the idea of historical accuracy, which is illustrated in the collection of portraits shown here.
A significant challenge with each subject was defining who is represented in the portrait. When photographing people who are “in character” it becomes difficult to ascertain whether the finished product is a representation of the “real” person being photographed, or the character that the subject is portraying. This blurred line between reality and theater is fascinating to me.
Beyond the social, historical, and cultural issues which engaged me, it was my goal to make portraits which stand alone and above the themes that define them. I hope, through meeting and photographing these people, to show them as individuals as well as to continue to learn about history, and how we are defined by and connected to it.
Molly Hayes’ passion for making photographs began when she was 12 years old, wandering the woods behind her home in Maine with her father’s old camera in hand. She moved south to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA in photography in 2003. Since graduating, Hayes has lived in Charleston, working as a freelance photographer as well as assisting and traveling with other photographers for national and international advertising, print, and editorial assignments. Her work has been published and exhibited in Charleston, Savannah, and Maine. She enjoys learning about people through photographing them and continues to make this a lifelong focus.