In 2008, the photographers took portraits of people whose hobby is historical reenactments.
In this photograph, we see Marian, a miner from Czerwionka-Leszczyny, posing in his orderly kitchen. After work, he runs a reenactment group in which he plays the role of a mediaeval crossbowman. Liboska and Jędrzejowski’s series also portrays a Roman legionary, a samurai, a Native American, a cowboy, and an anti-terrorist. Their project won a Grand Press Photo award the same year.
The photographers focused on the reenactment phenomenon, which first appeared in Poland in the 1990s. The movement evolved from small groups with an interest in selected periods of history into mass reenactments of the Battle of Grunwald, involving several thousand people.
Reenactments are spectacular shows comprising intense images that reference various notions or visions of history. Prof. Wojciech Burszta, a cultural anthropologist at SWPS University, was involved in researching reenactment groups. As it transpired, many of those who participate in reenactments see themselves as guardians of historical memory, commemorating vital events in Polish history. The professor believes there is a resurgence of the romantic notion that war is noble and capable of consolidating the nation. The underlying dangers of such thinking are desensitisation to atrocities, and an oversimplified outlook that prefers to cultivate divisions between people.
The professor underlined that young people who take part in or watch historical reenactments are experiencing a false image of war, and added:
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.