CNN Photos

Extras let hair down for ‘Lincoln’ movie

When the crew for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” came to film in Richmond, Virginia, Anya Mills noticed a strange phenomenon among residents.

First, her neighbor got one. She spotted it when he was taking out the trash one morning. Then, when she looked around, she noticed many others in Richmond were growing beards and styling their hair to match their roles as extras in “Lincoln.”

Mills, a senior art producer at the Martin Agency, approached her colleague and friend Adam Ewing with the idea of taking portraits of these extras with their 19th-century hairstyles for their 15 seconds or so of fame in “Lincoln.” Ewing took it on as a personal project without any outside funding.

Mills posted a Craigslist ad reading: “We are looking for those of you who were cast as an extra or had a part in the Lincoln movie shooting here in VA. We are particularly looking for those of you who have had your hair cut, coiffed. ...”

Everyone from actors to students to baristas responded to the ad. Ewing asked them to take on the roles they played in the movie while sitting for a portrait. During the shoot, he had a monitor displaying traditional poses from the era and asked them to imitate those. For example, a young man put his hand in his shirt like soldiers often did in portraits from that era.

It was a surprisingly emotional project, Ewing said.

“I was no longer just photographing hair, but I was documenting the feelings evoked by a history hundreds of years past,” Ewing wrote in an e-mail.

One man played a character who had been wounded in the film, and a makeup artist recreated the effect from the shoot with “blood” on the man’s face. Posed portraits of dead people were often done in the 19th century, Ewing and Mills found in their research.

The photographs have elements of wet-plate processing, which was first introduced in the 1850s, but they were digitally produced. True wet-plate works could only be in black and white.

“The entire series became a juxtaposition of modernity and history,” said Ewing, who decided with Mills to have the extras wear modern clothing rather than clothing from the Lincoln era. “Technique and process aside, the feel of the portraits was intended to communicate past- and present-day aesthetics.”

The film was shot on sites in Richmond and Petersburg, according to Virginia’s tourism office, which created a self-guided map and interactive site of movie locations.

Lincoln” – touted as an Oscar contender – rolled out into theaters nationwide on November 16.

“The community seemed to have this feeling that they were part of a big secret,” Ewing said. “It brought a lot of energy and a sense of camaraderie to the city.”

The Martin Agency Gallery is hosting a private exhibition, arranged by the agency's Chief Creative Officer Joe Alexander, of the portraits until the end of December.

- Lauren Russell, CNN