For the past three years, I have photographed the Battle of Gettysburg reenactment held annually by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. This year was the Civil War battle’s 145th anniversary, and participation in the event was significantly larger than in past years. Every five years the anniversary committee produces “the big one” — and they did not disappoint, with more than 15,000 reenactors and ticket-holders in attendance over the Fourth of July weekend.
A Personal Project
As a Maryland-based photographer, I feel lucky that I live within an hour’s drive of most of the historical events and monuments in the area. These reenactments are a great opportunity to create photographs of subjects that you would seldom capture any other time of the year.
Persons dressed in period clothing set up camp and stay in character throughout the weekend of battles, skirmishes, and harsh daily living. These are men and women dedicated to reliving history not only for themselves, but for the thousands of guests and tourists visiting the area.
As a photographer, one of the biggest challenges of this year’s event was the overwhelming number of people. With so many reenactors being transported via hayrides to open fields, it was sometimes difficult to get around — even though my father and I received VIP passes provided by a family friend.
Despite the challenges, it is truly a one-of-kind experience that presents endless photographic opportunities — which is why I keep going back year after year.
After the event, I started thinking about how I wanted to use my images from the past three years. I was not contracted to cover the reenactments; it’s a personal project I’ve taken on with no pre-defined market in mind. Initially, all I really wanted were some nice framed enlargements to hang in my home.
Creating a Book
Upon culling through my own photographs followed by my father’s best-composed shots, I realized that we had enough great images together to produce a high-quality coffee-table book. Since the images might appeal to Civil War buffs generally, I decided to use an online service to create, publish, and market our photo book to this audience.
As this was my first photo book, I looked around before choosing a service provider. I decided on Blurb after reading positive reviews online. What sold me was its ease of use, as well as being able to produce my book and market it through their bookstore commission-free. Books you design through the service are affordable and offer options such as softcover, hardcover, and image-wrap, where the image is embedded in the hardcover itself.
Blurb’s big competitor is Lulu, which offers a more comprehensive marketing vehicle, allowing you to obtain an ISBN number for your book and providing access to their distribution partners such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. As you might imagine, however, Lulu charges fees and commissions for access to their marketing tools; I also suspect their design software may not be as intuitive as Blurb’s software application. That said, I’ve found strong advocates for both sites online.
Ultimately, I’m very happy with how the book came out. Titled “Civil War: Battle of Gettysburg, Remembering America’s Past through Images,” it’s 40 pages long and available to preview and purchase. You can check it out here. 
It’s been exciting for me to shoot the reenactments at Gettysburg the past three years. And now, I’m equally excited about sharing my work with others as a coffee-table book. With tools like Blurb, it’s easier than ever to share personal projects in this way.
[tags]photography books, photography advice[/tags]