In 2012 I had developed a relationship with the owner of a successful branding and advertising company located in my city, Birmingham. After Paul and I had coffee he asked if I would be interested in doing a personal project for him. Jumping at the chance to prove my skills extended beyond simply photography I agreed.
For reasons that I couldn’t control, we never were able to do the project until September of 2013. The basic idea of Paul’s involved the Alabama Division of Civil War Reenactors and specifically to have a statue (monument) come to life. For 10 years Paul had this idea showing a monument with a soldier on top as part of the overall monument to look as though he was coming to life and climbing off the top of the monument with a caption “See the Civil War come to life.”
I knew it would require some fancy Photoshop work but Paul already had someone who could do that part of the project. What I needed to do was find the right “soldier” (reenactor) to be photographed on a wooden ladder. Second problem: wooden ladder. I had leftover scrap 2×4’s from building a deck that I used to construct a crude ladder for the reenactor to climb down. Finding the soldier was an interesting endeavor but Facebook is very handy for such things. I eventually found just the right guy who lived 8 miles from the monument Paul wanted to use as the basis for the photo. Ladder, check. Soldier, check. Next we set a date.
It was the perfect day in September with no clouds and great sun so we didn’t really need strobes or lights. I shot many photos of the monument alone at different angles: low, standing, on a ladder and even lying down in order to have enough for the Photoshop demigod to complete the concept. Second we propped my homemade ladder on top of an aluminum ladder all in front of the monument in order to have the same lighting from the sun and had Scotty (our soldier) “climb” down. Actually all he did was stand there while I clicked away. Perfect.
After 45 minutes of shooting we were done. I handed Paul the memory card and he got the images to the retoucher. Between the retoucher (who also easily made our live solider, Scotty, to look like he was indeed made of limestone) and Paul the finished product was better than anyone of us imagined.
As a followup of this project I met up with a group of the Alabama Reenactors in October where they engage in reenactments in order to get portraits of them for my own personal project. I had my assistant wear a back pack with a battery pack and a strobe on a monopod to engage the guys (and girls) in a portrait. I believe these are some of the coolest portraits I have ever taken. I hope you agree. I know with the photos being in color isn’t true to the period but the colors were so awesome I couldn’t make them black and white.
To see more of Alan Matthews work go to his website and Altpick.com page.