Hugo Passarello Luna Captures World War I Reenactments with a Vest Pocket Kodak

All images by Hugo Pasarello Luna. Used with permission.

A century after the end of World War I, Paris-based Argentinian photojournalist Hugo Passarello Luna was intrigued by a thought: how exactly does everyone remember the global conflict? To attempt to answer this question he embarked on a project called Nostalgie de la Boue (Nostalgia for Mud) which explores how the French reenactors safeguard its memory.

This year, Hugo followed different groups of reenactors from the actual historical battlegrounds, including Noyon and Meaux, with the goal of trying to understand what drives them to relive the battles, while others seek to escape the trauma of war.

“These men, and a few women, reenact the combats of the Great War, with an obsession to detail that they take pride on,” Hugo introduced the project to us. “What are these reenactors safeguarding? Which memories are kept, which are left to time, and which are reformulated? Why this quest for authenticity? Is it something vital for the conservation of the collective memory?”

French reenactors standing as German WWI soldiers wait for a combat reenactment rehearsal in Noyon, France, May 2018. They will loose the battle just like their real counterparts 100 years ago. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, a camera used during WWI. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

After attacking with a machine gun a German position, French reenactors launch an attack on their fellow WWI participants in Meaux, France, in April 2018. The French will succeed in taking the position. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, a camera used during WWI. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

French and German WWI reenactors take position before being attacked by airplanes from the Great War during an airshow in Meaux, France, in June 2018. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

French reenacting forces attack a German machine gun position in Meaux, France, in April 2018. Most will die or get wounded before reaching the position. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, a camera used during WWI. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

“I would see them, the old and the young, running, hiding, running again, shouting, throwing themselves into the mud, shooting blanks at their fellow enemies. I would see the one who runs out of bullets, pretends to die or get wounded. And so he stays on the wet ground, getting his once pristine uniform all muddy, until the performance is finished.”

To make his photos as faithful as possible to the era, Hugo used a Vest Pocket Kodak, one of the most popular cameras used by soldiers during World War I. Made by Eastman Kodak from 1912 to 1935, the Vest Pocket Series were the first to use the smaller 127 film and could easily fold and fit inside a coat pocket, as its name suggests. With the outbreak of the war, many soldiers bought these early compacts to record their travels and experiences, earning the camera the nickname”The Soldier’s Kodak.”

“Could I find answers if I mirror their action and photograph them using a camera of those times?” Hugo wondered. “The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict that we have today.”

A soldier shoots a replica of a French WWI cannon constructed by a group of reenactors. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

French WWI reenactors standing as German soldiers, attacking French positions in a real battleground near Noyon, France, one hundred years after the end of the Great War, April 2018. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

Two reenactors rest after a battle at the Mont Renaud’s Chapel in Noyon, France, destroyed during the real battle in WWI, a hundred years before April 2018. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

WWI French reenactors rest in similar conditions as soldiers during the Great War, in Meaux, France, in April 2018. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, a camera used during WWI. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

Two nurses, a grandmother and her grandchild, walk around the battlefield looking for reenactors pretending to be wounded in Noyon, France, April 2018. Photo taken with the Kodak Vest Pocket, also known as “The Soldier’s Kodak”, a camera largely used by combatants during WWI. The Vest Pocket produced a great deal of the amateur archival images of the conflict we have today. The image is part of the series “Nostalgie de la boue” (Nostalgia for Mud), a work in progress about memory a century after the end of the Great War.

Nostalgie de la Boue is set to be exhibited on November 11th, exactly a century after World War I concluded, in a gallery in Paris. According to Hugo, they are working to show them at the Museum of the Great War in Meaux, France, the biggest museum in Europe dedicated to World War I.

Do check out Hugo Passarello Luna’s website to view all the photos in the project.