Photographer Recreates Civil War Era Portraits

Photographer Recreates Civil War Era Portraits

Motivated by a passion for Civil War era photography, photographer Willis Bretz spent nearly two years researching battles and individuals specific to the United States Civil War in order to create a set of portraits that pay homage to those created by war photographers more than 150 years ago.

Bretz, a self-proclaimed “history-nerd” began his research by browsing through images created by Civil War era photographers utilizing Google’s image search. Quickly realizing that this wasn’t the most efficient search method, Bretz then turned to the photo archives at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. There he was able to put his hands on actual printed photographs, further strengthening his sense of connection to the project.

With the aid of the Kane Historic Preservation Society, Bretz was able to photograph Civil War battle reenactments over a two month span. Supplied with period-correct props and using only a single Paul C. Buff Einstein paired with their 64-inch PLM, Bretz explains that he intentionally kept his lighting setup basic.

I kept things rather simple with just one Paul C. Buff Einstein paired with their 64-inch PLM.  My goal for these portraits was to make them look natural with the Einstein and PLM filling the shot with a soft light.  The Einstein was powered by my Vagabond Mini that I put inside my Think Tank Retrospective Shoulder Bag along with an additional battery.  I then used the bag as a weight to keep the light from being blown over in case there was any wind.

You can read more about how Bretz created these portraits and view more behind the scenes images by visiting his website.

​Images provided with permission from Willis Bretz Photography

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Dusty Wooddell is a professional photographer based in the Southwestern United States. Self-proclaimed thinker, opportunity seeker, picky eater, observer of things.

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1 Comment

Great project and really nice photos. I'm glad you reported on them.