We Love These LARP Photos by Piotr Müller

“The common stereotypes are what give us the immersive experience,” says Polish photographer Piotr Müller about the annual 4th of July LARP event that takes place in Poland. A fun event that goes beyond just dressing up, he explains what connects the roleplayers with the theme.

I come from India, the country whose natives are probably the most stereotyped on American television and movies. And I live in the Middle East, a region with citizens that are a close second on that list. That narrative is changing over the past few years, with more representation and less stereotyping. But when I read about Polish people partaking in a 4th of July LARP event, complete with American mannerss and paraphernalia, I had to find out what it was all about. On the surface, it looks like an enjoyable event, and it’s rather interesting to see such a unique take on the American dream as seen through the eyes of creatives. Photographer Piotr Müller told us what made this event unique and why the participants take it so seriously.

The Essential Photo Gear Used By Piotr Müller

Piotr told us:

Each of these lenses has its creative purpose – 16-28 allows me to capture a lot of context and it is useful in tight spaces. 70-200 allows me to cherry-pick people from the crowd and catch the action from far away, and fifty is a sweet spot – just the right focal length for most situations, very shallow depth of field and great low light performance, which in This kind of photography is a gamechanger

The Phobographer: Hi there. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.

Piotr Müller: I’m Piotr, a LARP photographer and software engineer from Poland. How did I get into photography? Just like most of you, I enjoyed capturing beautiful moments using whatever equipment I had available at that time – a smartphone or some entry-level camera. As it just so happens, some of my friends liked the photos very much and asked me if I could photograph a medieval fair which they had organized. And then it escalated quickly.

The Phobographer: Which came first – the idea for the 4th of July photos or the LARP? Who spearheaded this project?

Piotr Müller: The idea for the LARP came first. Bartosz, the main organizer, wanted to create a bitter-sweet LARP about the American dream – the America we know from movies and books. The photos were only a side effect of this event.

A fixed focal length – which may seem to be a disadvantage – forces me to focus more on framing which results in more interesting photos

The Phobographer: Was it just a one-day event? How long did it take to organize?

Piotr Müller: It was a weekend event, however it took months to organize. LARP is not only a cosplay party whose main point is hanging out in a fictitious world. It is a deeply theatrical experience where people get into multidimensional characters and can get involved in creating an addictive storyline.

The Phobographer: “A drama about the wasted American dream” is a strong statement to make. Why does the group feel the American dream isn’t what it used to be?

Piotr Müller: Most of the players are in their 30ss, which means we all grew up in a poor post-communist country, seeing the United States as a promised land. We believed a myth presented by movies and TV series, where everyone is rich and beautiful; the sun is always shining, and the grass is greener. Later on, when we became more aware, we had to confront this image with reality.

The Phobographer: exactly which sections of America is the group showcasing in this event?

Piotr Müller: A major inspiration was the Trailer Park Boys series, a TV show about those who lose the American dream, barely coping with life, living in rented trailers, and struggling with everyday problems. It is a story about those who gave up and those who are still dreaming; it’s about human drama.

The Phoblographer: The flag and its paraphernalia are seen all over these images, but so are a lot of stereotypes (denim, guns, t-shirts, baseball caps, etc.). Tell us how the team decided on some of these ideas?

Piotr Müller: Every player got a description of the role and a seed of the plot. It was up to them how to dress, disguise and act their character. Few of us have ever lived in America, so the common stereotypes are what give us the immersive experience. After publishing the photos, we had a lot of comments like, “It looks just like the 4th of July in my hometown in Ohio!” so I guess it is not so far from the truth.

The Phobographer: Were there some scenarios that were discussed but later dropped? What were some that did not make the final cut?

Piotr Müller: The game was designed in a way to deliver immersive and very emotional roleplay and included experiencing negative emotions. We call it “dying in cold water.” When creating such intense plots, there is always a dilemma if what we just wrote will be too much or not enough. The scenario team had hundreds of ideas. The inclusion of a full range of emotions is the reason why the 4th of July might look like a caricature of contemporary America. It’s not just sipping tea under a star-spangled banner but also drug addiction, gun violence, and the experience of being arrested.

The Phobographer: It’s not easy to generalize, but is this how the majority of Poland sees the people of the USA? What’s been the reaction to this event?

Piotr Müller: We have a very ambiguous image of the American people, but some elements are common in our imagination – flags, guns, and XXL everything. I guess it’s a common sight, seeing the buzz around this game.

The Phobographer: If you were to partake in this activity next year, what character would you like to dress up as?

Piotr Müller: Next year I’d probably play the same NPC character – a photographer whose job is to picture how provincial Americans celebrate the 4th of July

All images by Piotr Müller. Used with permission. Visit his Instagram and Facebook pages to see more of his photography. Want to be featured? Click here to find out how.

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