In The Mist continues my examination of white adolescent male culture. This body of work consists of photographs depicting Airsoft players (a military simulation game played with replica firearms), JROTC recruits, target shooters and the forest landscape where these boys play, train and practice. Airsoft is a live-action version of first-person shooter video games. I am interested in how Airsoft players’ actions, costumes and props look and feel like actual military special operations and uniforms. The boys precisely recreate the look of a contemporary soldier and carry realistic weaponry – confusing the line between reality and imagination. At times, their fantasy game takes on realistic proportions and these young men appear as soldiers. In other instances, their age, ill-fitting clothing and physique reveal them as children.
The performance of a video game in physical space further conflates the distance between fantasy and reality. The missions, scenarios, and personas are make-believe, but the targeting and tactics are skillsets that can be applied in real world scenarios. Young people playing with guns in war games is not a new phenomenon, however contemporaneously, these photographs allude to the menacing potential of these young men. I contemplate the discipline that is being learned, the empathy that is being shown, and how these boys will interpret the world they will inherit.