Machine Gun Festival. Bullitt County, Kentucky.

Commissioned by GQ

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“Thank you God for this day and this event, thank you that we have the liberty and freedom to own and shoot firearms as free men should… The cost of this freedom is the blood that has been shed on battlefields across the world by our people. Nothing is free. You have to earn freedom and maintain it and that means wars. God sent his son to die on the cross; that was his cost. Jesus Christ shed his blood on the cross as our men have done and continue to do. This is the price of freedom.” – From the opening sermon at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot.

Despite this call to arms, and to my surprise, the atmosphere is not one of a militia training camp but of families having a good time, meeting old friends and enjoying a shared passion – that this passion is for ridiculously efficient killing tools does not appear to draw comment. 

All around are sensory signifiers of conflict – the deafening sound of machine gun fire, explosions, plumes of black smoke rising from burning cars.  But this isn’t war: this is leisure.

When I look at these pictures I see people in love with machines and the power they lend. I sense an underlying state of fear, a condition of living scared. And a search for reassurance in the thunder of automatic weapons.