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by Will Michaels

I take portraits.

Recently, I made a conscious decision to simplify the portraits I had been taking. I chose to make simple studies of the head, shirtless with a neutral background - a bust. My primary influence is Roman, the cold marble heads on pedestals I fell in love with in Rome. concentrated on the texture of skin, facial expressions, quality of light and the simple way the subject fills the frame. My intent was to produce a quiet, introspective and moody portrait, essentially a reflection of myself.

"I'm here because my grandfather fought and died on Iwo Jima. Since I cannot talk to him, ask him questions about what he went through, this seemed the best way for me to understand why he died. I'm here to remember him."
Living History Volunteer

In recognition of the 60th anniversary of the fight for Iwo Jima, The National Museum of the Pacific War hosted a reenactment of the historic battle. Iwo Jima + 60 involved over 320 living historians, forty of whom flew directly from Japan. After a staged invasion, the Japanese forces defeated, five active duty Marines and one Navy corpsman raised Old Glory atop Welge Point in Doss, Texas. Over 20,000 spectators witnessed these events.

I went to Iwo Jima + 60 as a contemporary photographer. I spent a week in Doss helping erect tents, meeting the volunteers and becoming familiar with the land. When photographing, I chose not to include concession stands, port-o-lets or the throngs of people who came to watch. Instead I donned a uniform, got down in the mud and assumed a role as correspondent. I photographed freely, without the fear of bullets, setting out not to mimic pictures of the past but to make this event my own. My intent was to blur the lines between past and present. I do not want to trick people into thinking these were taken on Iwo Jima. The hill is too small, combat boots have rubber soles and the dead have ear plugs.

This event and my photographs are an homage to a single image, Joe Rosenthal's iconic and serene Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima taken over 60 years ago. His image affected lives, including his own. It inspired generations. It inspired me. Looking at his photograph, it is easy to forget that over the course of 54 days, on eight square miles of black sand, Japanese and American forces suffered over 48,000 casualties.

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