Operation: Frosty Balls 4x5

The sport of airsoft is a game of honesty; when you get hit you call it. It’s about community and working as a team. As a photographer, airsofter and a self-proclaimed “gear whore”, I am aware of what goes on in this realm. The perspective of one’s self is an important aspect to the experience of airsoft. This project is about the sport and the people who wear the load-outs, uniforms and gear and the spaces that we occupy. In airsoft, men of every age come together to become characters in a world of reenactment and role playing.

Gear is a very important aspect of airsoft not only for holding the things we need during a game but also, even though airsofters don’t want to admit it, for looks. We spend hours at a time buying, selling, and trading all the newest high-end guns and gear. We brag about our “load-outs” and some consider ourselves gear whores. The arrangement of the gear, or load-outs, are sometimes impressions of actual soldiers or characters from video games. No matter what it is, every players load-outs are unique from one to the other. I focus on these distinctive and personal features in my photographs. People use airsoft as exercise, military and weapons training, or just for fun.

One of airsoft’s most important characteristics is camaraderie. Sharing an experience of airsoft with others is one of the most valuable aspects of the sport. A lot of time is spent standing around talking with one another. Players could have either been hit, the game is about to end, or they are just breaking for lunch. A lot of us are full of ourselves and that seems to be okay with everyone. The conversation consists of stories of “badassery” and how many kills someone got, or how bullshit the other team is how they don’t call their hits. There’s a large community of “chairsofters” who don’t make it out to games, but participate in online forum discussions. The forums are used for selling gear and guns, tech help, general discussion, event organization, AARs (after action reports), and personal announcements.

I utilized a large range of photographic equipment during this project. For the more formal portraits, I photograph with a 4x5 large format view camera. It’s an old looking wooden field camera that gets a lot of attention and questions. The amount of detail I can obtain from a 4x5 negative and a large print really speaks to the people’s attentiveness to their gear. I chose to scan and print digitally because I can edit out dust and alter contrast and exposure. While airsoft games are in progress I run around in my gear taking pictures digitally and with a 35mm Pentax K1000. While on the field you have to wear eye protection which can sometimes impedes with my focusing in-camera. I prefer the film because it slows me down during a hectic game and allows me see the environment, architecture, vehicles, pyrotechnics, and players running through the field with little fear of being shot. I own some “tactical photo equipment” covered in modular earth tone webbing that are used by military photographers. Even when I am just taking pictures on the field, I dress the part.