I love strong, powerful women. My mother is one. I try to be one. I want my daughter to be one.
I love the story of Joan of Arc. It’s not a fairy tale, it has absolutely nothing to do with outward beauty, and it has a horribly tragic ending. Not much like our other photo shoots.
Here Joan was, a young peasant girl, raised in a time when France was on the losing end of the Hundred Years War with England. She went to the men leading the worthless French end of the operation, including Prince Charles, and told them of her visions and that they would triumph. Valiantly, Joan of Arc ended up leading them into battle in a time when women never did such things. The fact is, Joan never personally killed anyone and never even carried a sword (an artistic license I have taken in my photos, because we bought one as a Christmas present for my daughter); only a banner and a pennant, yet she, a sixteen-year-old girl, led and advised a group of good commanders into several military victories and eventual triumph. After seeing many of her dreams come true with military victory and the crowning of Charles VII as king at Reims, she was captured, abandoned by her own people, and handed over to the English, who tried her as a witch. She remained strong, she never relented or recanted regardless of all the accusations against her (the worst of which seems to have been cross-dressing, because she wore mens’ clothing and armor into battle and to avoid being molested in prison), and she was finally burned at the stake as a martyr.
Not all stories have a happy ending. But brave people who live out the calling of God will live forever with him. I want my children to know what weakness looks like and what inward strength looks like and to make the choice to be determined and fulfill their purpose on this earth.
So much serious! The point here is that when we cosplay as a family, and even LARP with the kids, there’s a bigger purpose in mind than the fun or the pure aesthetic pleasure of photography (though there’s nothing wrong with those, and we benefit from them). We cosplay and LARP to teach history, and character, and incite the imaginations of our children to be strong for their own day in battle, wherever and whenever that may be. When we first came up with the idea for Joan of Arc, I wanted to do something that wouldn’t look glossy or really even pretty, but gritty and determined. While the kids enjoyed themselves immensely, there wasn’t a great deal of laughing or smiling. More just tiny little minds trying to grasp war and valor (and also super-excited about holding REAL SWORDS.).
Would you like to know about the costumes? I’ve been planning them for a long time. Almost a year. We bought the marvelous crocheted linen tunics the boys were wearing at a craft fair in Riga, Latvia last year. I bought three, but Zach felt strongly that we should figure out a way to make armor for Joan. I ran to the hardware store and bought sheet metal. That attempt ended within half an hour, and I swear to always leave blacksmithing to the professionals in the future. A number of other ideas went by the wayside before I learned that you can make nearly anything out of craft foam! We made child size helmets and the breast plate out of plain old craft foam and hot glue, then we spray painted them! I am still working the kinks out of my patterns, but I hope to launch a tutorial soon. Promise!
For props, we used our collection of swords and shields that we have been collecting during our time living in Europe. Additionally, I wanted a child-size pennant and banner, so I whirred those out on the sewing machine. Here are a few of our production pictures:
So, for your perusal, Joan of Arc: