Charles Fréger’s photographs combine acute documentary attentiveness with individual portraiture in an entirely fresh style. His projects in Wilder Mann and Yokainoshima will enthrall followers of folk traditions from distinctive cultures across the globe.

Wilder Mann focusses on the transformation of man into beast that is central to traditional pagan rituals that are centuries old, and which celebrate the seasonal cycle, fertility, life and death.

Each year, throughout Europe, from Scotland to Bulgaria, from Finland to Italy, from Portugal to Greece via France, Switzerland and Germany, people literally put themselves into the skin of the ‘savage’, in masquerades that stretch back centuries. By becoming a bear, a goat, a stag or a wild boar, a man of straw, a devil or a monster with jaws of steel, these people celebrate the cycle of life and of the seasons. Their costumes, made of animal skins or of plants, and decorated with bones, encircled with bells, and capped with horns or antlers, amaze us with their extraordinary diversity and prodigious beauty.

Work on this project took photographer Charles Fréger to eighteen European countries in search of the mythological figure of the Wild Man: Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Romania and the United Kingdom.

Yokainoshima (literally ‘island of monsters’) explores the extraordinary range of masks, costumes and characters that reappear with each returning season.

In rural Japan the passage of the year is marked by festivals and rituals that have changed little for centuries. Elaborate outfits, crafted from textiles as well as branches, straw and elements sourced from the natural environment, are donned in agricultural and fishing communities throughout Japan to celebrate seasonal rites of fertility and abundance.

Toshiharu Ito and Akihiro Hatanaka, both specialists in Japanese folk culture and anthropology, analyse Fréger’s photographs, setting the huge variety of eclectic clothing in ethnographic context and describing the local festivals, dances and rituals. A final illustrated reference section describes individual costumes and masks.

Charles Fréger is recognised as one of Europe’s leading young photographers. Based in Rouen, France, he has published many previous books including Légionnaires Portraits photographiques et uniformes and Empire.

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