RAF Aircraftman Jason Hopkins at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 20, 2013.
RAF Aircraftman Jason Hopkins at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 20, 2013.Daniella Zalcman
RAF Aircraftman Jason Hopkins at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 20, 2013.
Terry Seymore and Dicky Bass of Essex Second Battalion at Damyns Hall Aerodrome on August 3, 2013.
Wayne Ladd reenacting as an RAF Squadron Leader in the Battle of Britain at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 20, 2013, in front of a replica Spitfire.
A Stampe SV4C — used as a training aircraft during WW2 — flies at Damyns Hall Aerodrome on August 3, 2013. Many reenactment events double as military vehicle shows. It's amazing what people have in storage in the UK — participants bring along WWII tanks, armored cars, Jeeps, and motorcycles.
Simon Tait, reenacting as a Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) Captain of 1943 at the Imperial War Museum Duxford on September 29, 2013.
Essex Second Battalion reenactors at Damyns Hall Aerodrome on August 3, 2013.
The WW2 reenactment world is obsessively complete — everyone is represented, from those who fought on the frontlines to those who had less glorious roles back at home. Here, Callum Musgrove reenacts as a British Home Guard Private at the War & Peace Revival on July 18, 2013.
Reenacting doesn't stop with the uniforms — many groups set up living history displays where every object is period, from aircraft manuals to chess sets. Here, part of the Hornet Squadron Living History Group's display.
It's difficult for reenactors to find and use actual 1940s kit — original uniforms are expensive, and soldiers were shorter and thinner during World War II than your average modern day reenactor. Most of the uniforms are careful reproductions. Bradley Cooper, however, has an incredible collection of original gear (everything in his tent is from mid to late 1944). Here, he's reenacting as an Essex regiment officer with the Essex Second Battalion at Damyns Hall Aerodrome.
Ryan Browne, a friend of Ieuan's just beginning to delve into reenacting, gets dressed at the War & Peace Revival on July 18, 2013.
Not every WW2 reenactor is a soldier — Alan Kempton is one of several gentlemen who appears regularly as Sir Winston Churchill (though as the only one sanctioned by the Churchill estate, Kempton is really the leading impression). Here, Kempton at the Peterborough Heritage Festival on June 23, 2013.
Young reenactors Laura Blanchard and Ieuan Joe Smith (who's dressed as a Private, C Company, 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, British 1st Airborne Division) share a kiss at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 17, 2013.
RAF Aircraftman Jason Hopkins at the War & Peace Revival in Folkestone, England on July 20, 2013.
Daniella Zalcman
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For England's WWII Reenactors, Authenticity Is the Message

Jun 03, 2014

When American photographer Daniella Zalcman landed in England in November 2012, she was looking for a long-term project to pursue while she waited for official approval from the British government to begin working in the country. What she found was a fiercely dedicated crew of World War II reenactors, who travel across the country staging epic recreations of significant events from the war. The images she created as she followed their travels through history look like they could have been shot at the height of the war, a quality she says comes from a combination of her camera, her subjects and her persistence.

“One of the biggest elements of getting a good photo is getting good access,” Zalcman told TIME. “Once I got my foot in the door I was really able to interact with people and follow this story for a long period of time.” She’s been photographing British battle reenactments for close to a year now, and is currently in Normandy photographing the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Her images, shot in black and white on medium format frames, evince a rugged authenticity and timeless charm.

“It’s pedantic in the most loveable way possible,” Zalcman said. “Every detail, down to the last button, has to be accurate, because every single one of these World War II reenactors has a father, a grandfather, a very close family member who was in the war. So in these photos a lot of them are wearing their grandfathers boots, or their dad’s insignia. It’s very close to home for a lot of them.”

While far from a history buff, Zalcman says she’s had to brush up on her WWII trivia to keep up with the subjects in her photos. “It a lot more interesting and a lot easier to immerse yourself when you’re hearing stories from that close, and from that perspective, to really know where they’re coming from.”

Zalcman’s said she comes from a documentary background, which shows in her WWII work. The nostalgia that shines through in her portraits of Winston Churchill look-a-likes and leisurely snapshots of soldiers at rest is a fitting tribute to both history as it was, and history reenacted. "WWII was really the last great war, and I think we can agree that it's the last war that there were genuine war heroes in the most idealistic sense of the phrase. So for me, it's a historic continuation and a way for me to reflect on their reflections on the war."

Daniella Zalcman is a freelance photographer based in New York and London

Krystal Grow is a writer for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kgreyscale

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