‘Lucifer and little devils,’ Tauplitz, Austria. Photograph by Charles Fréger.
In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter and other seasonal celebrations.
Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:
It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.Following his exhaustive tours of Europe, Fréger headed to Japan to photograph both winter and spring celebrations in Japan which showcase the country’s “theatrical” take on their celebratory costumes that have remained intact over the course of many centuries. The images from his travels to Japan reveal mythological “monsters” such as ogres and demons menacingly blending into landscapes, fields and the water or wielding machetes . Fréger’s exploits with international folkloric entities are the subject of two gorgeous books, Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage, and Yokainoshima: Island of Monsters. I’ve included many images of Fréger’s scary monsters and mythical entities taken in Italy, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Japan as well as other destinations that celebrate the coming of winter and other seasonal changes with characters way more interesting than Santa. Enjoy!
‘Festival of Bears,’ France.
Pyrenees ‘bear’ costume.
‘Krampus’ costume, Austria.