Daily Picture Show

Gather Ye Olde Suburban Knights

Prithee ye willful spectators, verily caste thy gaze hither and looketh uponeth thither ... thou ... art ... Um, hey, look at this! Large-format platinum portraits of re-enactors!

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In order to make these images, photographer E.F. Kitchen had to dress up in a medieval frock and lug her view camera to the middle of nowhere. Her inspiration was simple: Fascinated by her son's Japanese warrior outfit, she "thought it would be interesting to photograph people who make or collect their own armor," she explained on the phone. "But I had no idea where to find these people."

Then Kitchen hit the jackpot. She came across an organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), "an international organization," their site reads," dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe."

These are not your average re-enactors. They're not simply re-staging historical events, but re-creating an epoch. Think Renaissance fair writ global. At SCA gatherings, which happen all over the world, you will find all walks of pre-modern life — jousting, fencing, crafting, etc. But Kitchen was interested in the warriors. "Not content to stage polite, imitation battles," she writes in her artist's statement, "they meet by the thousands on vast fields, wearing full body armor and forcefully striking one another with rattan swords."

Although seemingly tongue-in-cheek, this is serious business — not only for the SCA, but also for Kitchen. A creative anachronist herself, she photographs with a large-format 8x10 camera, and makes her own prints using an old-fashioned platinum process. It takes nearly a month of work to perfect each print, but for Kitchen, it's worth the effort.

Suburban Knights

hide captionSuburban Knights by E.F. Kitchen

"You're dealing with a much more expanded tonal field," she said on the phone. "You're holding it in your hands, it's not under glass — it's a totally different experience. ... It has a different feeling." That explains why, nearly eight years after photographing, the project has finally come together in the form of a book: Kitchen has been printing for years.

You can imagine Suburban Knights sitting on King Arthur's coffee table. He might survey prospective warriors, or perhaps study the enemy, while flipping through names like "Mohney of Catbells," "Syr Edouard Beausoleil," or, my favorite, "Baronesa Dulcinea Maria Magdalena von Muhlberg y Aguilar."

A warning about stealing i i

hide captionA note in Suburban Knights warns about the consequences of stealing

A warning about stealing

A note in Suburban Knights warns about the consequences of stealing

"I'm interested in groups of people who do things that are different," Kitchen explained. "It doesn't mean that I understand it — but I enjoy photographing them to find out what compels them to do these things." She also interviewed her subjects, and scattered their thoughts throughout the book:

"I'll be honest. I see a lot of people [join the Society for Creative Anachronism] because real life sucks. You can come here and be anybody." — Sgt. Duncan the Monster

At the very end of the book, almost as an afterthought, a few pages of thumbnails show "knights in repose" — or back in reality. A knight behind a desk is just another body. But in armor, as Sgt. Duncan the Monster says, a knight is a hero. That's what Kitchen, who admits to being an antiquarian herself, finds compelling: "All of us are looking to the past for something missing from the present."

Knights in costume and in daily life

hide caption(From left to right) Aaron Lloyd (aka Aaron Palomides of Buckminster) software engineer; Melody Faith (aka, Baronesa Dulcinea Maria Magdalena von Muhlberg y Aguilar) occupational therapist; Scott J. Shaw (aka Viscount Geoffrey Scott) firmware engineer

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