A client who purchased a print asked for the story behind the photo:
Fittingly for a photo entitled “A Matter of Life and Death,” it begins with the Civil War.
Well, not the actual war, but the contemporary, re-enacted Civil War.
For the past several years, I have served as the Executive Producer for The 1861 Project – a series of three CDs released in observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. As the project started ramping up in the winter/spring of 2011, I started attending and photographing re-enactment events; some of those photos have been used as album cover art for the three CDs we’ve released.
Over the years, Ann and I have compiled quite a catalog of Civil War e-enactment photos; One prominent re-enactor has done me the great honor of referring to me as “the Matthew Brady of the re-enacted Civil War.” There are so many excellent photographers at these events that I’m not entirely certain that I deserve such a lofty recognition, but I haven’t gotten tired of hearing it yet…
In March of 2012, I drove up to Erin, Tennessee for the re-enactment of the fall of Fort Donelson in 1862 – a pivotal event in the war that not only secured Union control of Nashville and the surrounding region, but also marked the ascendance of Ulysses S. (aka “Unconditional Surrender”) Grant among the pantheon of Civil War military leaders.
I left Erin in the mid-afternoon the Sunday following the re-enactment. As I came around a bend about 12 miles south of Erin on Vanleer Highway (TN Rte 48), I saw an abandoned and derelict farm house giving way to the elements amid a stand of not-quite budding oak and hickory trees.
That site alone would have been enough to stop and make a photograph, and I started looking for a place to park. But once I drove past the house, I couldn’t believe what was on the other side: a field filled with thousands of daffodils in the peak of their bloom – a veritable sea of yellow flowers, easily the most daffodils I have ever seen in one location!
And, as luck would have it, there was a small church across the street not 100 yards past the house with plenty of off-the street parking.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the visual juxtaposition of a decaying home against the reborn, not-quite-spring landscape was sufficiently compelling that I spent more than an hour working different angles and exposure settings.
I returned to the annual re-enactment of Fort Donelson in March of 2014 and found the setting once again much as I remembered it from two years earlier. This time the lighting conditions were a bit more favorable, with fewer clouds punctuating another wise sparkling blue sky.
“A Matter of Life And Death” is one of the frames exposed at “The Daffodil House” during that re-visit to the site in March, 2014.