Artist's Statement

Edie Winograde

History is the collective memory of past experience. In this series I photograph reenactments of events in the history of Westward Expansion that are presented in their original locales. My interest in these events--aside from the visual appeal of the extravagant theatrics--is to underscore their quality of mimesis and déjà vu.

The reenactment pageants represent a unique window into the American psyche, combining historical facts, myths, and legends with theatrical devices to convey meaning to local audiences. They are often ritualistic and cathartic in nature, and have special and profound significance to the communities that create them.

The reenactments I am most interested in take place in the original landscape, underscoring the idea that history itself is part of our experience of landscape. There were no photographers at most of the original events--photography had not yet been or had barely been invented--but most people have a visual familiarity with these histories that comes from cultural references such as Western paintings and B-movies. In my photographs I capture both a portrait of a present-day phenomenon as well as an impression of historical events, which together may blur the boundaries between present and past, history and imagination.

While there is a connection between my photographs and the tendency toward constructed reality in contemporary photography, it is important to note that these reenactments take place regardless of my decision to photograph them. I am a spectator, watching events unfold and allowing chance to play a large role in my photographic process.