For live action role players, each weekend brings the opportunity to abandon everyday identities and assume the personas of valiant leaders, strong warriors, mystical knights.
This portrait series is about the power of fantasy as an expression of hope. Weekend warriors from the Amtgard kingdom of Tal Dagore don new names and elaborate costumes to flesh out their personas and blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
Brodrin Fellhammer is a combination of hobbit names, because he planned to make his character a hobbit. "I'm a dwarf."
Anteries was a member of an Amtgard Kingdom in Florida prior to relocating to the St. Louis area. Being new in town, Amtgard offered him an immediate entree into a new community.
Zane Lightfoot (Steve)
Zane is often told he looks like Kurt Cobain.
Lady LeLundra (Mickey)
Lady LeLundra's real name is Mitchako, but her friends call her Mickey. She's married to Lord Kato Darkhaven (Keith) in real life.
Testicles (pronounced tes-ti-clees) was recently discharged from the Army. As most members craft their garb themselves, he built this suit of armor. He drove more than four hours from Iowa to this day's event in South St. Louis.
At the time of this photograph, Bones was staying with a friend, sleeping on his couch.
Anne Boneywood (Cindy)
Anne Boneywood has a bad case of sciatica so she can't fight today. She was one of the first females in a fighting company with "live steel"—real swords, blunted, with padded combatants. That was when there were rules about "no females on the battlefields." She's named after the famous female pirate Anne Bonny. Her fiance is Hawk (Henry). She explained about "stick jocks" (who don't care about the fantasy aspects of Amtgard) and "Flurbs" (who are overly enthusiastic about the fantasy).
Billy Jo (Jessica)
Billy Jo is the record keeper for Black Ember Fortress, the Alton, Illinois chapter of Amtgard in The Kingdom of Tal Dagore. She and Vitty Rose are good friends in real life.
Corest Da'Valgon (Dustyn)
This was the final iteration of the character Corest Da'Valgon. Dustyn killed him off to create a new fur-suit clad character named Gizmo the Fluff.
Andre became a Lord shortly after this photograph was made.
D'artagnan friended me on Facebook shortly after this photograph was made.
"My spirit animal is a grizzly bear," he said. "It's druidic. When I was a kid, my best friend was a grizzly bear."
Fuzz earned his nickname in high school theater. His email address includes the phrase "techiegeek."
Gearexx is wearing handmade chain mail and steel armor.
Elliott Teach (Scott)
Jera Green Dawn (Jason)
Players often refer to one another by their characters' names, even outside the context of battlegames, in social settings and social media as well. Jera Green Dawn, a "professional traveling boffer fighter," has a Facebook page.
Q: "Are you of Jewish heritage?" A: "No."
Moments before this picture was made, Kairo was injured in a warmup battle game. He was struck with his own long sword in the back of the knee, and struggled to walk for the remainder of the day.
Lord ShadowHawk Grimwulff (Henry)
They call him Hawk. He's been doing this for 25 years. He started in SCA with "Live Steel." During this day's battle I was sure he was going to come to blows with another combatant. Afterward, as we walked off the battlefield, he assured me that would never happen. Then he stopped and shook the opponent's hand, saying "It's just the heat of the battle."
Dame Silverleaf (Erica)
Dame Silverleaf is active in the battle games aspect of Amtgard as well as the cultural side. She submits artwork regularly to chapter competitions. According to her then-fiancé, Elliot Teach (Scott), she's been active in Amtgard since Memorial Day of 2003, when her previous boyfriend brought her to an event to impress her.