Every summer thousands of people from all over the world gather in a Kentish field and leave the present firmly behind. They step out of their routine daily lives and transform into historical characters from the First and Second World Wars, often with such vigour and obsessive attention to detail that its hard to imagine them in contemporary settings. Taking on a different name, identity and sometimes even a different tongue, the role players re-enact battles and drills from an imagined past. It is something more than acting, a collective fantasy played out on a massive scale.
Photographed against a plain background in a portable studio, the re-enactors seem to gaze beyond the viewer in to another time. Their uniforms and costumes are precise in their detail, but the artist confuses our perception of what we are seeing. The time and space are ambiguous and this disconcerting effect gives the viewer the feeling that they are looking at both the past and the present simultaneously. Naughten tells us nothing of his sitters;’ lives, nor does he express a view on their activities, but raises questions about collective perceptions of history and our own relationship with the past.
Imperial War Museum