A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They have on a mask with a pointed crown, a red cape, and club-like hands.

Pantalla, Xinzo de Limia, Galicia, Spain. All images © Jason Gardner, shared with permission

Between January and March in Christian communities around the world, incredible personas emerge for Carnival in the form of mythological creatures, folkloric emblems, and historical figures. Donning elaborate masks and costumes, people obscure their identities, indulge in abundant fare, and gather together in parades and street parties before Lent. In his forthcoming book, We the Spirits, photographer Jason Gardner explores the remarkable diversity of Carnival and its traditions. “‘Winter and spring; barren and fertile; life and death; beauty and ugliness; light and dark; ritual and reality; chaos and order—the annual Carnival is much more than a party and parade in the streets,” he says.

Gardner traveled to 15 countries to document the festivities, capturing vibrant portraits of local revelers in elaborate, handmade costumes. He says, “In a time of screens, computers and A.I. simulations, there’s a movement back to the analog and gritty experience of Carnival, back to tradition and to feeling something more primal, animal, and pagan.” The annual ritual, which traces its origins to ancient European festivals like the Greek Dionysian or Roman Saturnalia, is rooted in a subversion of hierarchies and social norms, releasing people from typical roles and obligations in a symbolic period of renewal, after which chaos is then restored to order.

We the Spirits will be released by GOST Books this month in the U.K., coinciding with the exhibition Costume and Masquerade: Photographs by Suzanne Jongmans and Jason Gardner at Stadhaus Ulm in Germany. The title will be released in the U.S. in February, and you can pre-order a copy now on GOST’s website. Follow along with Gardner’s work and travels on Instagram.

You might also enjoy Robert de la Torre’s photos of the Entroidos celebrations in Spain.

 

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. The jacket and mask are both furry, and they wear large bells around their waist.

Arapides, Monastiraki, Greece

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They wear sheepskin and denim, hold a cane, and done a large hat with a photograph of a woman on it.

Augustus I, Sopotnia Mała, Poland

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They are dressed like a tree with a face.

Hombre árbol (Tree Man), Silió (Cantabria), Spain

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They wear numerous patterned fabrics and carry a stick with a goat on the front as if riding the goat.

Geiss (Goat), Weisbach, Germany

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They stand underneath a frame of a giant hen.

Kürika (Hen), Markovci, Slovenia

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. They stand in a forest and wear numerous types of shawls and fringed fabrics with a mask, a turban-like hat and lots of feathers.

Bonita, Sande, Galicia, Spain

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. The costume consists of a long burlap body and a head that looks like a monster with a big open mouth, peg-like teeth, and horns.

Schnappviech / Wudele, Tramin (South Tyrol), Italy

A portrait of three figures wearing elaborate costumes for Carnival. They crouch down next to a wall and hold yellow sticks, wear yellow masks with oversized teeth, and are covered completely in fabric with draping threads.

Ta Terjasti (The Thread Men), Cerkno, Slovenia

A portrait of a figure wearing an elaborate costume for Carnival. A colorful set of shirt and trousers in blue, yellow, and red complement a horned mask, a belt with bells on it, and a hand-held figure of a dog or small animal.

Botarga Arbancón, Guadalajara (Castile-La Mancha), Spain

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article Elaborate Personas Spring to Life During Carnival in ‘We the Spirits’ by Jason Gardner appeared first on Colossal.

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